“Every beat of heart has a sound of freedom”

I extend my heartfelt greetings to the distinguished guests, leaders, professors, students of the University of Havana, and everyone present in this room.

Mongolia and Cuba are situated at two different parts the globe. There is a time difference of 13 hours between us. It is currently 3 am in the morning in Mongolia. Nevertheless, our hearts and souls have always been close to each other.

Mongolia established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1960, after the Cuban revolution. Cuba was the first Latin American country for Mongolia to establish diplomatic relations. In 1970, the Cuban delegation led by H.E. Mr. Raul Castro visited Mongolia. The visit coincided with the time when Cuba did not have an Ambassador to Mongolia. Mongolians still talk about the one phrase by H.E. Raul Castro. He said, if there were no one to work in Mongolia as Ambassador, I would be the one to work in Mongolia. This sole example shows the hearty closeness of Cuban people and Cuban leaders to Mongolians. We have a Cuban-Mongolian Friendship Association in Mongolia. We also have a secondary school named after the national hero of Cuba, Jose Marti. There is a kindergarten in Havana called “The Morning of Gobi”. I met the children and teachers from this kindergarten, and I am very happy.

I had an opportunity to meet H.E. Mr. Raul Castro for the first time in 2015 in Kremlin during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Victory in Moscow. I invited H.E. Mr. Raul Castro to visit Mongolia and he reciprocally invited me to visit Cuba. Therefore, I am here today in Cuba.I am thrilled about it, I am very happy. Yesterday, I had official talks with H.E. Mr. Raul Castro, followed by a dinner. The talks lasted for almost four-and-a-half hours. This proves that we had a lot to discuss and exchange about the relations between our two countries.

Firstly, I shall briefly talk about Mongolia. I asked earlier about what comes to mind of the Cubans when they first hear of Mongolia. You, probably, know about the Chinggis Khan, our famous national hero. This year, we celebrated the 2225th anniversary of the Mongolian Statehood. Mongolia was the only country to establish the largest land empire in the world. Historians say that 800 years ago, Mongolians were setting the new world order. Mongolia has a great state, military and cultural heritage. If you are interested, please feel free to raise your hand and ask about it. I will try my best to answer your questions. Any question is fine.

I studied together with Cuban friends when I was a student in the 1980s. At that time, I heard a lot about Cuba. We sang together songs like Vinceremos and Guantanamera. Our Cuban friends presented us ‘Guyabera’ sweaters, and chancleta shoes. Also, they talked many jokes about the person called Pepito. We celebrated the national holidays together. And at the end, we said Viva Fidel! Viva Cuba! I have all these good memories. Mongolians know about Cuba and its people very well. Even today, Mongolian students are studying at the University of Health in Cuba. We have discussed about increasing the number of Mongolian students studying in Cuba. Also, we are discussing to receive Cuban students to study in Mongolia. I am very grateful that our universities have signed a memorandum of understanding to further expand cooperation in education sector.

I have briefly touched upon the history of the Mongolian Empire. The collapse and decadence of the Empire lasted for several centuries. Finally, in the beginning of 20th century, Mongolian people restored freedom and independence. Mongolia became the second socialist country in the world after the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Mongolia followed the socialist path of development for 70 years. At the end of the 1980s and beginning of 1990s, fundamental changes took place in Mongolia. You know about ‘Perestroika’ and ‘Glasnost’, which started in the Soviet Union. That process also happened in Mongolia, but in much broader scale. I would like to speak about the changes in each sector. For instance, the economic sector. In the 1990s, the economy of Mongolia was in a very difficult condition. You probably are aware that Mongolia is a rich agricultural country. There are 3 definite numbers about Mongolia. The population is more than 3 million; the territory is 1.5 million square km with only 2 people per square km, which makes it the top in the world, and the country has more than 60 million livestock. In the beginning of 1990s, the privatization took place intensively and all livestock have been privatized to herders. I was born and raised in a herders’ family. I have 7 elder brothers. My parents have 8 sons, and they told me that they always dreamt of having a daughter. Later, my brothers got married and brought their wives.

After the livestock privatization, everyone possessed some capital. Also, due to difficult times, every adult, who wanted to go abroad, was given a foreign passport and were allowed to travel abroad. The trade became free. All shelves in the supermarkets and stores became full again, and the trade of goods and services was restored within two years. Also, we have privatized all services sectors, no state restaurants were left, and all of them were transferred to private owners. All apartments were privatized to and owned by their residents. We created a legal environment, which allowed anyone to establish own company. Before the privatization, 98 percent of the economy was socialist capital, but today, 80 percent of the economy is private capital. These kind of reforms were made in the economic sector.

Our society underwent dramatic changes. During the socialist times, Mongolia had only 5 newspapers. I am a journalist myself. I was the person to publish the first open newspaper in Mongolia. Since, the number of newspapers increased, and at some point, there were 500 different newspapers in Mongolia. However, the number has declined, while the quality is improving. Also, there was only one state television and radio. But now, there are no more state television and radio. Currently, there are about 80 Mongolian channels in Ulaanbaatar. Everyone freely uses media, Facebook, and Twitter. I have my own Twitter and Facebook accounts. This way, people are able to criticize the society and the leaders. I am one of the persons, who are criticized the most in Mongolia. These criticisms pull me every morning from my bed and require me to do more and better.

I became the President of Mongolia in 2009. Right after the election, I transformed my office in the Government House into a Citizen Hall and dedicated it for the citizens. In that room laws, regulations, and decrees have to be discussed by the people before they are approved. Later, all Aimags (provinces) in Mongolia introduced this approach and established Citizen Halls.

Another initiative, which I recently introduced and got approved is the Law on Budget Transparency. The idea is that the public is enabled to scrutinize every income or expenditure by the Government and government officials, as it were seen like through a glass. In general, the politicians’ talks are not interesting to the people, what is interesting to the people is how the money is being spent by the politicians. We always try to change and make steps forward. Starting from the municipal government of Ulaanbaatar, all state services are moved to the outer city area. The government rents a place at one of the big service centers. Due to the heavy bureaucracy, getting the state service, state stamp, and signatures is an issue in Ulaanbaatar; therefore we brought these services close to the people in such a way. When you arrive at that service center, there are 3 different colored forms. People need the state services all the time. Getting birth certificates or graduation certificates, establishing restaurants or stores, constructing a building, getting driver license and etc. There was a time when it took 300 days to get a construction approval. Now, if you go to a service center and get a green form, you will get the necessary services immediately. People were happy, when they got necessary services within 5 minutes, where before it took 5 months for the same service. If you receive the yellow form, your issue will be solved within 24 hours. If you receive the red form, it is an issue to be solved within 1 week. Also, people are able to monitor through the Internet the status of their request and who is dealing with that.

There is an international rating on corruption. When I was elected as the President, Mongolia was on 120th place on this list. I have worked as Prime Minister twice, and each time I fought corruption and resigned. If you look on the internet now, Mongolia is on 72nd place. We did major reforms in many sectors, including, judiciary, police and prosecution. This will take long time, if we discuss this here. I believe that officials should combat red tape constantly. Just like a mother, who makes her baby dry every morning, officials should fight this every morning. Here is an example that judicial decisions in Mongolia should be published on the internet and printed within 72 hours. It should be transparent by law.

Crucial changes have been made in political sphere. There was only one political party before, but at the present, there are about 20 parties registered. Parliamentary elections, including the recent one, have been organized in Mongolia 8 times since 1990s, whereas, Presidential elections were held 6 times. In 1990s, we discussed and legalized to establish party branches not in factories and entities, but based on territorial principles. It was a very difficult time. However, from today’s point of view, we made a right decision. Personally, I believe and try to follow the principle that state should not interfere into people’s lives and entities’ issues. Taxes should be collected from them. Indeed, there are people, such as elderly and children, who the state should take care of. If we see the social changes by human life, it makes it more understandable. Mongolians adhere to the policy to raise more children. It was the case during the socialism, and is true today. Mother’s Honor medal of the Second degree was given to mothers delivered five children and the First degree medal was given to mothers of eight. I brought the First degree medal to my mother. Our women have been saying that this requirement is very high and asking to ease it. Thus, we are giving the Second degree medal to mothers of 4 and the First to mothers of 6. The medal is accompanied by monetary reward. In addition, Child’s money is given to every child under the age of 18 every month. However, now we are making the high income families to decline that money and stopping to give it to them. Kindergarten’s issue is very difficult in Mongolia. Therefore, we proposed a different solution to this issue and established a Child care service. If a mother in a household is unemployed, and takes care of 5 children, state is providing money allocated to those 5 children to their mother and allowing to organize kindergartens at home and organizations. I believe that kindergarten’s issue should be resolved by next year. Number of private kindergartens is increasing in Mongolia. However, majority of kindergartens are state owned. Moreover, if you decide to enroll your child to a private school, we have legalized that too, while keeping that state school structure as it was. Some private kindergartens are very expensive. Annual fee is reaching 15-20 thousand US dollars. Still, 80% of children in Mongolia are able to enroll in state owned kindergartens with free of charge. Now your child becomes a university student, what should you do? During the socialism, there were 6 universities and institutes in Mongolia. We have legalized the right to establish private universities and higher educational institutes. Number of universities reached 160. Reversely, we put requirements, which became stricter and now the number has decreased to below 100. We kept the number of universities during the socialism and still enrolling students there. As for some universities, I believe that they should be developed in non-for-profit way; thus, profits should be invested back to the university. They should have a Council in upper level, and management should be independent and private. We require that university graduates should not only find jobs for themselves, but also should be able to establish entities, provide services and employ other people. Generally, we are trying to keep the continuity of good aspects from socialism and bring the best things of existing in free and open society. We made lots of mistakes and weren’t right always. I believe that everyone should follow her or his chosen path. However, everyone wishes to live in freedom. Personally, I think that each heartbeat is a sound of freedom. One advantage of freedom is that it gives a right to make mistakes. Freedom lets people to advance, correcting mistakes. And Mongolians say, it is better to live by your own choice however bitter it is than to live by others choice, however sweeter it is.

I believe that every country tries to determine its own way for further development. I read in a newspaper that there are discussions going on determining the Cuban development model. In Mongolia, we also hold such discussions on Mongolia’s development constantly. I think that people need to be more free, more productive and creative, and this should be the development model and foundation for Mongolia’s development. People need to be more educated.

I am ready to take any questions you have. You may also criticize. I have been to Havana in 2002. Today I have been to Old Havana. I saw lots of development, restoration and big increase of services on the ground floors of the apartment buildings. The reason I touched on freedom of Mongolians is because I understand that Cuban people are also fighting for own freedom. Embargo against Cuba is meaningless at all. I have also mentioned this during the meeting with the President of the USA, his administration and Senators. I asked them to lift this embargo as it is meaningless. Mongolia has been voting for lifting this embargo at the UN during the last years. Personally, I believe that a country doesn’t have to be directed by another on the way of own development or to be blocked. Mongolian people take the Cuban people’s heroic fight over the years close. We will support it firmly. I assure that we will vote for lifting the embargo.

Our countries have great potential of cooperation in tourism sector. Mongolia is a land locked country. Recently, we have conducted a survey in Mongolia asking which country people wants to visit the most, and Cuba was amongst the first 3 countries people voted for. Thus, Mongolian people want to visit Cuba. I would like to invite you all to visit Mongolia too. Some believe Mongolia is a very cold country. The cold season or winter lasts only for 3 months followed by spring for next 3 months. Then it is summer, which is 3 months similar to today’s Havana. Amazing autumn in Mongolia lasts next 3 months too. I think that when God created Mongolia, it brought together all the best things from all over the world. Mongolia is a beautiful country. You may have heard about Gobi, where dinosaurs used to live. Mongolia is rich on dinosaur findings. There are steppes you can drive for 300 or 500 kilometers without any barrier. We have high mountains of 3000 or 4000 meters above the sea level. We also have deep forests and pastures. Most importantly, Mongolian people’s attitude to Cubans is very friendly. Therefore, we will be grateful if you visit Mongolia.

I hope that we will be able to continue our cooperation with the University of Havana. I have visited BioCubaPharma, which has a great potential to work with Mongolia. I have invited 3 people from there to visit Mongolia. We also have huge opportunities of collaboration in sports and culture fields. Cuba is rich of astonishing sport successes. We used to invite Cuban trainers for our boxing team and one of the first gold medals Mongolia got from the Olympics was in boxing. I saw our boxers won Cuban boxers during the Olympics and World championships. Accept my apologies, but we take it as a way of remuneration for the trainers.

Cuba is presenting its candidature to the UN Human Rights Council this year. We have decided to support your candidature. I think this is a piece of good news. It was a great pleasure to meet you all here today.

Thank you very much.