India eases gold import rule in surprise move

May 27, 2016

India has scrapped a rule mandating traders to export 20 percent of all gold imported into the country, in a surprise move that could cut smuggling and raise legal shipments into the world’s second-biggest consumer of the metal after China.

Along with a record duty of 10 percent, India introduced the so-called 80:20 import rule tying imports to exports of jewellery last year to bring down inbound shipments and narrow the current account deficit that had hit a record.

“It has been decided by the Government of India to withdraw the 20:80 scheme and restrictions placed on import of gold,” the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said on Friday, without giving a reason for the change in the rule.

Only days ago there were talks between officials of the Mumbai-based central bank and the finance ministry in New Delhi to bring back curbs on some trading houses following a surge in imports over the past few months.

Traders said before the decision on Friday that India’s gold imports could climb to around 100 tonnes for a third 港股开户 straight month in November as dealers bought heavily on fears of curbs on overseas purchases, especially as the wedding season picks up.

But the government’s latest move came as a surprise even to some officials.

A policymaker associated with India’s gold import policy said the government instructed the RBI at 1830 local time on Friday to urgently change the rule. A notification was posted on the central bank’s website two hours later.

“We were not informed about the reason for scrapping this rule. The restrictions on who all can import who can’t are still valid,” said the policymaker, declining to be named as he is not authorised to talk to media.

The rule change, however, was a relief to jewellers facing difficulties in sourcing gold during the key festival and wedding season that started in October.

Bachhraj Bamalwa, director of the All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation, said the 80:20 rule was not only encouraging smuggling but was also misused by many traders.

From getting human mules to swallow nuggets to hiding gold bars in dead cows, smugglers had raised their activity since the middle of last year after the import curbs.

Following the disbanding of the 80:20 rule, the government may place a monthly or yearly quota for traders, said Sudheesh Nambiath, a senior analyst at consultancy Thomson Reuters GFMS.

“Quota is a more logical and simple way of monitoring and limiting gold imports,” Nambiath said.

Source:

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India targets gold hoards and temple treasures in trade deficit battle

May 27, 2016

India aims to recycle 20,000 tons of privately-owned gold in a monetization scheme to reduce record bullion imports and trade deficit. India overtook China this year as the world’s biggest consumer of gold.

The Indian government woos a staggering US$ 778 billion of gold with individuals, ancient temples and trusts, to tackle the current account deficit (CAD) – the gap between export and import revenues.

Imported gold contributed 28% of CAD for financial year ending March 2013. India’s expected deficit of $20.6 billion for 2015-16 favorably compares with $28 billion (1.4 % of GDP) in 2014-2015. But with fluctuating global prices, the Modi government intends to more significantly cut trade deficit, and rein in inflation.

If all goes merry and bright with the new Gold Monetization Scheme, deposited gold will be stored as ingots, then minted as gold coins, sold to earn foreign exchange, and loaned to jewelry merchants as in Mumbai’s Zaveri Bazaar.

Zaveri Bazaar’s Sheikh Memon Street in the dusk of a December evening seemed like other crowded lanes in the Crawford Market shopping area, except its shops own a few hundred millions dollars of gold.

Lalit Jain and Ashish Mehta do business near one such jeweler declaring intention to ‘buy old gold, diamonds, silver and pearls’. From the ground floor of the Bank of India Bullion Exchange Branch building, Jain’s Mahavir Hallmarking Centre has its striking white décor cleanly appropriate to its role in this gilded road: certifying purity of gold.

Mahavir Hallmarking made history this November serving the first three customers in India who signed up for the gold monetization scheme. These Gold Savings Account holders earn a tax-free interest, while the melted gold gets recycled back to the jewelry industry. Depositors can choose between getting back their gold quantity or its cash value at the end of fixed deposit terms.

“The GMS (Gold Monetization Scheme) is a good idea and can reduce the current account deficit”, Lalit Jain told Asia Times, with insider view as vice president of the Indian Association of Hallmarking Centres. “But banks have to play key role in spreading awareness, and the scheme needs to address some issues.”

One such issue is over 95% of gold in India being bought with cash, says Jain. Gold depositors then might have the taxman showing keen interest in source of that gold – something bashful black money holders would rather avoid.

The Indian government may mull over a mild tax amnesty to gold depositors. Or, more radically, ban all cash purchases in gold. That could interestingly impact India’s ravenous appetite for the noble metal. Gold imports hit a record high of 1,000 tons worth US$36 billion in 2015.

India’s official gold reserves are 557.7 tons in December 2015, according to latest World Gold Council statistics, compared with the 20,000 tons of privately owned gold.

20,000 tons is a stupendous quantity, considering that less than 175,000 tons of gold have been mined since the start of civilization – with over 90% of it after January 24, 1848, when a New Jersey sawmill operator James Marshall struck something valuable at Coloma, on the South Fork American River, and started the California Gold Rush.

The world’s oceans are said to contain 15,000 tons of gold; the entire US official gold holdings are 8,133 tons, with 4,600 tons of it in Fort Knox. Over 20,000 tons of India’s sleeping gold can change the dynamics of the world’s bullion market.

“Of India’s 20,000 to 22,000 tons of gold in private ownership, temples may have about 1,000 tons,” Lalit Jain and Ashish Mehta said. Vast quantities of gold are in small holdings across the country.

Well-known ancient temples cumulatively receive hundreds of tons gold that devotees donate every year. It is a tradition of renunciation stretching across millennia.

The 1700-year old Tirupati Balaji Temple in southern India has an estimated 200 tons of gold. The temple trustees have committed 1.5 tons of it for the Gold Monetization Scheme.

“Our gold is intact as periodical interest accrues in metal rather than in cash, and we still hold (own) the gold,” a temple official told the Economic Times.

The temple uses donations of gold and cash for public services like education. The gods have no practical use for gold from humans, but they need such shared merits earned from serving fellow beings.

Mumbai’s 200-year old Siddhivinayak temple plans to deposit 40 kg of its 160 kg of gold under the new Gold Monetization Scheme, and use the INR 6.9 million (US$ 102,697) in annual interest to fund medical aid for economically weaker people.

On December 13, Shirdi town’s Saibaba Temple committed 200 kg of its 380 kg gold holdings to the GMS. The annual interest of about US$ 500,000 will fund two free hospitals that the temple trust runs to serve 35,000 people a year.

More gold treasures may be awaiting discovery. In 2011, a US $22 billion trove of gold, diamonds, precious stones and artifacts was found in the 9th century Padmanabha Swamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram in south India. This, the world’s single-largest treasure trove, was in five vaults opened after 130 years. The government wants such gold idling for centuries back in the economy.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

India’s other plans include a gold exchange such as in China and Turkey, the world’s other great guzzlers of gold with monetization schemes.

Turkey’s successful gold recycling pulled in 240 tons worth US$ 10.4 billion in 2013, said a World Gold Council report. At the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, the jewelry shops beyond the Light of Ottomans Gate feed a Turkish lust for gold similar to India. Turkey allows withdrawing 1-1.5g of 24ct hallmarked gold through Kuveyt Türk Bank’s 500 gold ATMs.

Over seven million Chinese and overseas traders, 8,000 corporate clients have traded through the Shanghai Gold Exchange since it opened in October 30, 2002.

Gold exchanges ensure more transparency and fair prices, but India’s immediate exchange plan is for people and trustees exchanging their stored gold for interest from term deposits, and to recycle the gold.

By committing nearly two tons of gold this December, three of India’s well-known temples have gifted a $62 million starting boost to the scheme that enables keeping the gold cake while enjoying the interest – and giving the economy a healing trade deficit cut.

Source: atimes.com

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India’s rich temples may open gold vaults for PM Modi

May 27, 2016

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI, April 10 (Reuters) – The two-century-old Shree Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai devoted to the Hindu elephant-headed god Ganesha bristles with close circuit cameras and is guarded by 65 security officers.

It is one of India’s richest temples, having amassed 158 kg of gold offerings, worth some $67 million, and its heavily guarded vaults are strictly off limits.

India is the world’s biggest consumer of gold and its ancient temples have collected billions of dollars in jewellery, bars and coins over the centuries – all hidden securely in vaults, some ancient and some modern.

A few years ago a treasure of gold worth an estimated $20 billion was discovered in secret subterranean vaults in the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple in Kerala state.

Now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to get his hands on this temple gold, estimated at about 3,000 tonnes, more than two thirds of the gold held in the U.S bullion depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, to help tackle India’s chronic trade imbalance.

Modi’s government is planning to launch a scheme in May that would encourage temples to deposit their gold with banks in return for interest payments.

The government would melt the gold and loan it to jewellers to meet an insatiable appetite for gold and reduce economically-crippling gold imports, which accounted for 28 percent of India’s trade deficit in the year ending March 2013.

India’s annual gold imports of 800 to 1,000 tonnes could be cut by a quarter if temples decided to participate in the scheme, say government and industry sources.

“We would be happy to deposit our gold to nationalised banks if the policy is beneficial, safe and earns good interest,” said Narendra Murari Rane, chairman of the trust for the Siddhivinayak temple, portions of which are gold-plated.

But some Hindu devotees are not happy with the idea that their offerings could be melted down.

A Mumbai-based gold merchant, who said he and his father had donated around 200 kg of gold to Siddhivinayak and other temples over the years, said it would be a sin for the temples to earn interest on the gold offered to the gods.

“I make donations to God; not to any temple trust,” the 52-year-old merchant said.

Modi would also like to convince Indians to open their family vaults, which hold an estimated 17,000 tonnes of gold in jewellery and other heirlooms.

But it will be much harder to convince Indian families, who sometimes have little faith in financial institutions, to break tradition and hand over gold passed down the generations.

India’s love affair with gold spans centuries is rooted in the Hindu religion. One of the biggest annual buying seasons is the Diwali 老虎证券 festival around October to November. Gold marriage dowries are widespread and with 70 percent of the population rural, gold is financial security.

INTEREST RATE KEY

Key to Modi’s plan will be the interest rates offered for gold deposits.

A similar gold monetization plan launched in 1999 proved ineffective, in part because the interest rates offered on gold deposits were regarded by temple officials as too low.

Under that scheme India’s top lender the State Bank of India offers 0.75 percent to 1 percent and only 15 tonnes of gold has been deposited so far.

Temple officials at Siddhivinayak and Shri Saibaba Sansthan in Shirdi, both in the western state of Maharashtra, say they expect interest rates in the new scheme to be much higher and so would consider participating.

The government plans to reveal rate details when it launches the new scheme. Siddhivinayak’s Rane said he expected at least 5 percent interest on gold deposits.

Rajendra Jadhav, executive officer of the Shri Saibaba Sansthan temple trust, said rates will also be key to his temple’s decision. He declined to say how much gold the temple, dedicated to a 19th century saint, had in its vaults.

A successful gold monetization programme could go a long way in helping India reduce its trade imbalance.

India raised the import duty on gold, the country’s biggest non-essential import, and imposed other restrictions in 2013 after the current account deficit hit a record $190 billion.

If India can cut imports, that would pressure gold prices that fell to a four-month low last month before recovering. Lower gold prices will help India cut its import bill.

However, a successful scheme could also expose the government to potential risks, if gold prices were to take off and depositors decided to withdraw at the same time.

“There is going to be a lock-in period under the new gold monetizing scheme,” said Sudheesh Nambiath, an analyst at precious metals consultancy GFMS. “Banks will have to replenish the stocks with imports later (if temples withdraw gold).”

Source:

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