Foreign Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold, 46, was elected as the 26th Prime Minister of Mongolia on October 30, succeeding Sanjaa Bayar, who resigned because of poor health. The previous day, October 29, the governing council of the ruling Mongolian Peoples Revolutionary Party (MPRP) unanimously voted to nominate him to replace Bayar.
A diplomat and economist educated in Moscow and London , Batbold reportedly received 62 of 66 votes cast by Members of the 76-seat unicameral State Great Hural (parliament), after his nomination was approved by President Ts. Elbegdorj. Batbold has been Foreign Minister since 2008 and a member of parliament since 2004. He previously served as Minister of Industry & Trade and as Deputy Foreign Minister. One of the nationâ€™s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Batbold built the Altai Trading Company Ltd. into one of the nationâ€™s most successful companies between 1992 and 2000 as head of the trading company Altai Trading Co. Ltd.,Â Â
Batbold said he would make the nationâ€™s economic recovery his top priority. “The economic crisis is not over,” Batbold said. “The new governmentâ€™s priority will be to overcome the crisis.” He said his government would also focus reducing Mongolia â€™s high unemployment, saying that various mining projects both approved and in the pipeline, would create thousands of jobs.
Bayar, 53, submitted his letter of resignation to the Chairman of the State Great Hural on October 26, citing health reasons. Health Minister Sambuu Lambaa had been quoted by local media in September that Bayar was suffering from hepatitis C, which causes liver problems, and had been treated in South Korea . Bayar was recently again hospitalized in Ulaanbaatar .
Bayar has been universally praised for his deft and skillful leadership as prime minister since 2007, steering the long-delayed Investment Agreement on the Oyu Tolgoi (OT) copper-gold mining project to completion, repealing the Windfall Profits tax that discouraged mining investment, defusing tensions after the 2008 parliamentary elections, and guiding the nation during the global recession.
No changes are expected in the Oyu Tolgoi agreement as the result of Bayarâ€™s resignation and MPRP spokesmen told reporters no major changes in national policy will occur because of any change in leadership. Still ahead for Prime Minister Batbold and the government are decisions on the huge Tavan Tolgoi coal fields, for which 11 companies and consortia are reportedly bidding.
Foreign investors are also looking to the Mongolian Government for signals about provisions in the recently enacted Nuclear Energy Law that require uranium license holders to hand over up to 51% of their property to the government without any compensation. This proposed uncompensated seizure of assets has provoked a storm of criticism from various Mongolian government officials and the leadership of the domestic Mongolian mining industry, including the Mongolian National Mining Association (MNMA). Foreign investors are closely watching developments.