Alcohol Consumption: A Toast to Data

This will be the last post on this blog for an indefinite period as I turn my attention to other projects. I thought it would be fitting for the last post to be inspired much as the first post (here) was nearly two years ago with an interesting question raised by my fellow blogger Julian Dierkes over at "Mongolia Focus." Recently, Julian pointed out that a World Health Organization (WHO) interactive map on alcohol consumption around the world put Mongolia at a relatively low 5.8 liters of "pure alcohol" consumption per person per year (see map here). Given that alcoholism, in popular belief, is one of Mongolia's most acute public health problems, this number seemed remarkably low.

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Rethinking Ulaanbaatar's Population

Ulaanbaatar is the most populated administrative area in Mongolia. Its population was estimated 1.31 million in 2013, representing approximately 46 percent of Mongolia's total population.1 According to population data compiled by the Ulaanbaatar City Statistics Office,2 Ulaanbaatar's population has been growing at a steadily increasing rate since the 1940s. Before the forties, the city was not much of a city at all, but rather a sleepy camp in the Tuul river valley that claimed less than 5 percent of the total population of the country. From the 1940s to the 1990s, the city increasingly represented a much larger portion of the national population, and in the last decade or so the city's population growth significantly outpaced the national growth rate, rapidly heading towards claiming half of the country's population (see graph below).

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Impact on Savings from Tugrik Depreciation

This week the Tugrik (MNT) reached 1,800 per US dollar (USD) at some local banks. It was an unwelcome milestone. As the currency depreciates, people who have debts denominated in USD, have assets denominated in MNT, or purchase goods and services from abroad are effectively made poorer if they also earn their incomes in MNT. It is with this notion in mind that I recently set out to assess a specific impact the depreciation of the Tugrik has had on ordinary people, namely declining values in MNT denominated savings.

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An Analysis of Election Fairness

The last parliamentary election in 2012 introduced a proportional system of allocating 28 of 76 seats in parliament. These seats were filled based on the proportion of votes each party received nationally using a ranked list of candidates selected by each party. The threshold for selecting from a list was a party receiving at least 5 percent of the vote. The remaining 48 seats where allocated through popular elections in 26 districts. The primary justification for introducing the hybrid proportional-popular election system was to make elections fairer by reducing the representative imbalance between Ulaanbaatar and rural districts. Ulaanbaatar districts were under-represented and rural districts were over-represented in the allocation of seats in previous parliaments. Moreover, the Democratic Party (DP) was seen as being more popular in Ulaanbaatar districts and therefore at a disadvantage to the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) which was seen as more popular in rural districts. There was some truth in these perceptions, but did the hybrid system increase fairness in the elections?

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Examining Mongolia's Debt

Speaker of Parliament Z. Enkhbold recently provided another tweet worth examining in detail. He posted a graph showing "Total debt-to-GDP ratios in select countries." Mongolia was not one of the select countries in the graph, and the Speaker facetiously noted that "It seems we have no debt." At least I hope he was being facetious, because the truth is quite the opposite.

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