December 5th, 2016 156
Once Booming, Mongolia's Economy Veers From Riches To Rags
by Rob Schmitz
December 5, 2016 (NPR) Inside Mongolia's largest open-air market in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, it doesn't feel like the economy is on the brink of collapse. Alleyways are packed with people selling carpets, fabric, clothes and nearly anything else you could think of.
Its currency, the tugrik, is in a free-fall. "Obviously, the immediate thing we can do is fix our budget. Cut our deficit as much as we can," says Mogi Bontoi, who runs the market intelligence firm Cover Mongolia.
He says an IMF emergency bailout won't be enough to prevent Mongolia from defaulting on billions of dollars worth of loans. Some of that debt is owed to its neighbor, China — whose economic and political influence many Mongolians fear, but seems poised to loan even more money to Mongolia.
"Despite our public fear of China, what our politicians do is go to China," Bontoi says with a chuckle.
In the meantime, he says, unofficial unemployment hovers between 30 and 40 percent.