August 30, 2013


Many may not be aware, especially in our part of the world, that back in the year 1933, on April 5, US President Franklin D Roosevelt signed one of the most controversial orders in American economic history. The Executive Order No. 6102 criminalized the possession of gold by individuals and corporations and forbid “the hoarding of gold coins, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States.” This order was an extension of the Presidential Proclamation No. 2039 that criminalized the hoarding, possession and ownership of gold or bullion, and imposed a monetary penalty of $10,000 (equal to more $170,000 in today’s value) and imprisonment for as long as ten years on individuals falling foul of the law.

 Obviously, such laws on hindsight look very undemocratic and politically suicidal; but then, if one were to explore it and go beneath the surface, the big picture may gradually get vivider. In tough economic times, gold and similar forms of monetary elements can become a key source of increasing money flow in the market. One should remember that most nations (including ours) have at one time or the other even printed money based on the amount of gold kept in the federal bank (Reserve Bank of India, in the case of India). In other words, hoarding of gold by communities, corporations and individuals not only decreases the flow of money (given the unproductive capital locked within such hoarded gold) but also to a large extent disturbs the supply-demand equilibrium of gold and bullion. Before I reach India, let me in brief discuss the way Uncle Sam tapped (or as many critics would say, exploited) the Executive Order No 6102. The order forced every American citizen to surrender all their gold, leave 160 gms, to the Federal Reserve in exchange of a fixed amount of money. After receiving most of the gold, the US government increased gold prices manifold, thus churning out a huge amount of profit, which was used for the Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF), a fund that enables the American government to control currency exchange rates. In 1964, the previous laws were modified and the ownership of ‘gold certificates’ was legalized, followed by the legalising of gold trade in 1974 – after almost three and a half decades.

The importance of and aspiration for gold ownership in India requires no introduction. Despite economic turmoil, the consumer demand for gold is up by 51 per cent in Q2 2013 while the demand for gold bars and coins is up by 116 per cent. As per various unofficial estimates, more than 60,000 tonnes of gold are lying idle in the form of jewellery and ornaments all across the nation. Going by the current price of gold at the rate of Rs.35,000 for ten grams, this unaccounted reserves could create a possibility of reaping about Rs.2,10,00,000 crores in money supply! Going by World Gold Council figures, Indians hold 20,000 tonnes of gold (which is an absurdly less figure, as a single temple in South India holds more than 1000 tonnes of gold); even considering this reduced figure of 20,000 tonnes (which is 33% of the unofficial estimates), the amount we’re talking about would be nothing less than Rs.70,00,000 crores!
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sugandha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sugandha said...

Amazing figure Rs.2,10,00,000 Gold in India..
Mind blowing information and superb writing :)

hemant said...

.....I am very sorry to say this. But, you sound like a thief in disguise !

First of all, owners of gold, like any other asset owners have a right to own it. Owning gold isn't morally wrong and hence can't be made illegal.

Secondly, a positive government action is needed which will generate confidence in people to invest their savings rather than locking it in gold. Simply targeting gold as in a witch hunt will not solve the problem and will only dig the hole deeper.

Thirdly, neither crude nor gold are responsible for the huge current account deficit that we have built. If you look at last decade + , the cumulative CAD is mainly a result of heavy buying of capital goods from abroad. This also lead to pressure on the domestic manufacturing sector.

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Gopinath Kara said...

Three years back, I calculated unofficially , the total gold reserves in Indian house holds is not less than 50,000 tons of gold, its about 25% of the total gold reserves in entire world.

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