ULAANBAATAR, May 21 (Reuters) - Mongolia is preparing to invite proposals for public-private partnerships that would make a combined 38.3 trillion tugrik ($15.95 billion) in investments to support sustainable development, a government official said on Monday.
At present, Mongolia is recovering from an economic crisis rooted in a collapse in foreign investment and commodity prices, which forced it to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last year to help repay debts.
The government said that thanks to strong demand for commodities, Mongolia’s economy grew an annual 6.1 percent in 2018’s first quarter, compared with 5.1 percent last year and 1 percent in 2016.
But the landlocked nation remains desperate for funds to build the infrastructure to bring its huge copper and coal reserves to market.
“Even though we have good figures on the economy we still have issues to solve,” Zandanshatar Gombojav, chief cabinet secretary, told the Mongolian Economic Forum on Monday.
The plan to get private-public partnerships will involve 113 projects. The government has not provided details, but officials said they will include transportation infrastructure near the largely undeveloped Tavan Tolgoi coal mine.
However, doubts have been expressed that the government will fulfil its aim to mobilise private capital to fund more than 90 percent of the programme.
“Nobody would believe in a fairy tale that in two years there will be 38.3 trillion tugriks in investment,” said Lkhagvajav Baatarjav, chairman of the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, speaking at Monday forum. “It will barely reach 2 trillion tugriks.”
He said the situation was not helped by political instability, noting that Mongolia had four prime ministers and around 60 government ministers in just four years.
In 2017, Mongolia received $10.3 billion in foreign and domestic direct investment, up 44 percent from a year earlier, thanks largely to mining, Zandanshatar said.
Mongolia’s biggest project is the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in the Gobi desert, run by Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, launched in 2009.
But political disputes have delayed its expansion, and it has been the subject in a corruption investigation that has led to the arrest of two former prime ministers and an ex-finance minister who signed the 2009 investment deal. ($1 = 2,402 tugrik) (Reporting by Munkhchimeg Davaasharav; Writing by David Stanway; Editing by Richard Borsuk)