IMF Staff Completes 2019 Article IV Mission to Mongolia

June 28, 2019

End-of-Mission press releases include statements of IMF staff teams that convey preliminary findings after a visit to a country. The views expressed in this statement are those of the IMF staff and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF’s Executive Board. Based on the preliminary findings of this mission, staff will prepare a report that, subject to management approval, will be presented to the IMF's Executive Board for discussion and decision.

  • Mongolia has made major progress in strengthening the resilience of its economy. The authorities have appropriately used a favorable economic turnaround to pay down public debt and rebuild foreign exchange reserves.
  • However, buffers are too low to withstand large shocks; the economy remains very exposed to changes in external conditions and climate change; and poverty is still high, despite years of rapid economic growth.
  • The priority should be to extend recent progress, by building buffers and advancing structural reforms. Financial sector reforms, improved governance, and upgrading agriculture policies will be essential for sustainable, inclusive, and green growth.

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team led by Mr. Geoff Gottlieb visited Mongolia from June 19 to 28, 2019, to conduct discussions for the 2019 Article IV consultations. At the conclusion of this visit, Mr. Gottlieb issued the following statement:

“Mongolia’s growth rate recovered sharply since 2016. The turnaround in real GDP growth was boosted by strong external demand for Mongolia’s mineral exports, the resumption of the 2nd phase of the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine and loosening monetary and credit conditions. In addition, the government’s improving policy mix strengthened domestic confidence.

“Mongolia is in a considerably stronger position than two years ago. Due to booming tax revenues and relatively contained expenditures, the fiscal balance has improved by 18 percentage points and public debt has fallen 13 percentage points to 75 percent of GDP (IMF definition). On external side, the Bank of Mongolia has used the strong turnaround in exports and FDI to increase net foreign exchange reserves by $3 billion since end-2016. However, the benefits have not been shared widely with rising household debt and still high poverty.

“Growth is likely to moderate due to slowing mineral demand and credit growth. However, there is both upside potential and downside risks to baseline projections. Mongolia’s narrow economic base leaves it exposed to changes in external conditions. In addition, economic prospects depend on continued budgetary and monetary discipline during the election cycle.

“Mongolia’s buffers are still insufficient to cope with downside risks. Past economic crises in Mongolia were typically due to a combination of external shocks (e.g. a sharp fall in commodity prices) and unsuitably loose fiscal and monetary policies. The results were higher debt, lower reserves, and a more depreciated exchange rate. Notwithstanding recent progress, Mongolia’s buffers remain insufficient to comfortably absorb similar pressures.

“For sufficient debt reduction, Mongolia should target a primary balance of at least 1 percent of GDP in 2019 and 2 percent of GDP thereafter. Tighter monetary policy and macro-prudential measures can ensure credit growth supports macro stability. Tighter supervision by the Financial Regulatory Commission is necessary to rein in excessive non-bank lending.

“Deep structural reforms will help reduce Mongolia’s susceptibility to boom-bust cycles. Enhancing the fiscal rules framework is important to protect fiscal discipline in coming years. Developing the transport infrastructure will strengthen the export sector. A well- capitalized banking system will be essential to finance young companies that generate growth and jobs. Finally, re-orienting public spending towards health and social protection will reduce poverty and ensure that the dividends of higher growth are more widely shared.

“Regarding governance, the 2019 OECD-Anti-Corruption Network Report highlights key priorities for reducing corruption. Enhancing judiciary capabilities for commercial issues and a modern income and asset declaration framework are particularly important. On environmental issues, Mongolia is acutely vulnerable to climate change. A pasture tax and a modern animal products industry can enhance Mongolia’s resilience and diversification.

“With respect to the IMF-supported Extended Fund Facility, completion of the 6th review remains delayed, pending completion of two prior actions. First, a forensic audit of all capital raised related to the Asset Quality Review is necessary to ensure that capital is consistent with local regulations and best practice. And second, the Bank of Mongolia has committed to take supervisory action to ensure banks raise all capital requested as part of the AQR.

“The staff team met with the Speaker of Parliament, the Minister of Finance, the Governor of the Bank of Mongolia, the Minister of Mining, Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Light Industry, other senior government officials, private sector representatives, and the financial community. The team thanks the authorities for their cooperation, constructive dialogue, and hospitality during its stay in Mongolia.”

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