The Promise of Infrastructure in Mongolia

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SEATTLE — After democratic reforms took place in Mongolia in 1991, a slow economic transition began. Due to the scarcity of investments, the construction of infrastructure in Mongolia displayed slow progress, which caused a major bottleneck in the development of the economy. The country does not have a seaport, so its transportation industry mainly depends on rail and road transport. The aviation industry in Mongolia is relatively underdeveloped. Improvements in these areas are key to the present and future growth of infrastructure in Mongolia.

Transportation

The Ulaanbaatar Railway connects China, Mongolia and Russia. This major line has a total length of 1,811 km, covering the needs of both passenger transportation and railway freight. Mongolia adopted wide-gauge standards for railway transportation, which increased costs and restricted the economic development of Mongolia. Due to the aging of railway equipment and technology, mineral exports also developed slowly.

The national road mileage in Mongolia is about 50,000 kilometers in total, which can be categorized as national highways, local roads and self-use road units. Only one-fifth of the national highways are asphalt roads. There are 12 highway ports in Mongolia, making it easier to link the roads with its neighbors.

Major Mongolian airlines include MIAT, Aero Mongolia and a few others, with flights on both international and domestic routes. The Chinggis Khaan International Airport is the largest international airport in Mongolia. Due to its one-way take-off and landing and the effects of cold weather, there are many delayed flights in spring and winter. A new international airport is currently under construction in the Sergelen district of Töv Province, which is expected to open in August 2018.

Power, Communications and Services

The electricity supply in Mongolia is mainly comprised of the power systems in the central, western and eastern regions. There are still 40 counties in two provinces not connected to the central power system. Due to the relatively small electrical power infrastructure and its supporting facilities, Mongolia is partially dependent on imports from China and Russia. The domestic power supply in Mongolia grew by an average of 5 percent annually during the past few years.

Mobicom, G-mobile, Skytel, Unitel and Mongolian Telecom are major providers of telecommunications in Mongolia, while the progress of communication services, mobile and cable television subscribers varies. The coverage of wireless networks in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar is relatively high, where complementary Wi-Fi services are provided in city buses, major districts, restaurants and shopping malls.

The two projects of Information and Communications Infrastructure Development and Mining Infrastructure Investment Support represent examples of improvements to service-oriented infrastructure in Mongolia. The former benefits rural residents by providing educational and commercial access to the internet in addition to more convenient communication. The latter provides technical assistance to Mongolia when analyzing and preparing infrastructure projects for possible investments in international standards.

Development Planning

Specific plans for developing infrastructure in Mongolia have been drawn up by the government. Strategic goals in developing transportation and power systems have been planned in different stages. Tasks in the first stage include the promotion of regulations and developments for smaller facilities in addition to improvements to the current network of roadways and supply systems. The planned work in the second stage is comprised of a few large projects related to large-scale clean coal and thermal power stations and achieving full internet coverage in provincial capital cities and major cities all over Mongolia.

The media and communications industry has been targeted as an accelerator of infrastructure in Mongolia. The technologies are applied to various fields such as healthcare, finance, business, environmental monitoring, national defense and emergency management. Mongolia is expected to have 95 percent coverage for fixed and mobile communication networks by 2021.

A bright future can be predicted for infrastructure in Mongolia. Its promotion of national GDP growth and the related industrial products will also bring new job opportunities. Thus, the focus on infrastructure will improve the lives of Mongolians in many different ways.

– Xin Gao
Photo: Flickr

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