This year marks the 800th anniversary of the once mighty Mongolian Empire. Images of the warrior-ruler Genghis Khan are found everywhere in the capital Ulaan Bataar, even one engraved on a mountain overlooking the city.
Today's Mongolia, in contrast with Genghis Khan's Eurasian domain, is one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Per capita GDP in this country of 2.9 million people is estimated at $1,900, and roughly two-thirds of the nation's population survives on about $2 per day. An economy that grew by 10.6 percent in 2004 and 6.2 percent in 2005 generates some optimism for Mongolia's future. But many experts question the sustainability of strong growth rates, given the economy's dependency on the mining sector for income generation.
Mongolia has a great, yet largely untapped mineral wealth, consisting of mainly copper and gold. International companies are rushing in to the country, seeking exploration and production rights. As a result, the annual volume of foreign direct investment entering the Mongolian economy, which was $50 million in 1990s, rose to $300 million last year.
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Altay Atli is an economist and freelance writer based in Istanbul. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.