Reflecting Mongolia’s booming economy, Ulaanbaatar’s skyline has been transformed in recent years, with socialist-style low-rise buildings displaced by lots of steel and concrete structures. And as the towers go up, their owners seem to go into politics.
Mongolia’s economy grew by 17.3 percent in 2011, up from 6.4 percent in 2010. Foreign direct investment, mostly in the mining sector, totaled some $5 billion last year. The country sits on vast coal reserves, mostly untouched, lying within sniffing distance from energy-hungry China. It’s not surprising, then, that what some call the world’s fastest-growing economy is producing nouveau-riche oligarchs.
On the southeast corner of the capital’s Sukhbaatar Square -- where Mongolia’s parliament building is dwarfed by vast new construction projects -- stands the 17-floor Central Tower, owned by MCS, a company with interests as diverse as energy, infrastructure, alcohol, cashmere and telecommunications.
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Regis Gente is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.