Mongolians vote for a new legislature this week facing a fortunate choice: How best can the landlocked, still poor country spend an expected windfall from its mining boom? The main political parties in tomorrow's elections are offering variations on using royalties and revenues from mammoth coal, copper, and gold mines to build out pension systems, fund development projects, and give Mongolians shares in state companies and even cash outright.
If wisely spent, the funds could propel Mongolia up the development scale into the ranks of solidly middle-income countries. The economy grew 17% last year, and though the boom has transformed the capital, Ulan Bator, it also brought high inflation and a widening rich-poor gap. Mongolia's two main parties, the ruling Mongolia People's Party and the opposition Democratic Party, are promising similar platforms to share the wealth better. Both want to issue more shares in strategic mining ventures to the public, and they want to use mining profits to build processing plants and fund railways and other infrastructure to create more jobs.