"Gold can be stored for a long time and, despite the price fluctuations on international markets, it doesn’t lose its value for the population as a means of savings," Kyrgyzstan’s Central Bank Governor Tolkunbek Abdygulov said, "I’ll try to turn the dream into reality faster."
A landlocked nation perched between China and Kazakhstan is embarking on an experiment with little parallel worldwide: shifting savings from cattle to gold. As Bloomberg reports,
One of the first post-Soviet republics to adopt a new currency and let it trade freely, Kyrgyzstan’s central bank wants every citizen to diversify into gold. Governor Tolkunbek Abdygulov says his “dream” is for every one of the 6 million citizens to own at least 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of the precious metal, the Central Asian country’s biggest export.
In the two years that the central bank has offered bars directly to the population, about 140 kilograms of bullion have been sold, Abdygulov, 40, said by phone from the capital, Bishkek.
“We are hopeful that our country’s population will learn to diversify its savings into assets that are more liquid and -- more importantly -- capable of retaining their value,” he said. In rural areas, cattle is still the asset of choice for investors and savers, according to Abdygulov.
What makes Kyrgyzstan unique is the central bank’s effort to win converts by providing infrastructure for safe-keeping and investment. The central bank produces bars of different sizes, varying in weight from 1 to 100 grams.
The central bank governor believes his plan is realistic, even though it means the population would own about 600 tons of gold, equivalent to 30 times the nation’s current annual output. Abdygulov declined to specify the timeframe for when his goal of 100 grams per person can be met.
“For Kyrgyzstan, gold is an alternative instrument of investment,” Abdygulov said. “The National Bank has ensured liquidity for gold -- we aren’t only selling, but also buying back gold bars that we produced and sold.”
These somewhat blasphemous words from a central banker echo the thoughts of no lesser elite than Alan Greenspan...
TETT: Do you think that gold is currently a good investment?
GREENSPAN: Yes... Remember what we're looking at. Gold is a currency. It is still, by all evidence, a premier currency. No fiat currency, including the dollar, can macth it.
GREENSPAN: ...remember, we had that first tapering discussion, we got a very strong market response. And then we reassured everybody to have no -- remember, tapering is still (audio gap) of an agreement that the central banks have made -- European central banks, I believe -- about allocating their gold sales which occurred when gold prices were falling down (audio gap) has been renewed this year with a statement that gold serves a very important place in monetary reserves.
And the question is, why do central banks put money into an asset which has no rate of return, but cost of storage and insurance and everything else like that, why are they doing that? If you look at the data with a very few exceptions, all of the developed countries have gold reserves. Why?
TETT: I imagine right now, it's because of a question mark hanging over the value of fiat currency, the credibility going forward.
GREENSPAN: Well, that's what I'm getting at. Every time you get some really serious questions, the 50 percent of the gold price determination begins to move.
GREENSPAN: And I think it is fascinating and -- I don't know, is Benn Steil in the audience?
GREENSPAN: There he is, OK. Before you read my book, go read Benn's book. The reason is, you'll find it fascinating on exactly this issue, because here you have the ultimate test at the Mount Washington Hotel in 1944 of the real intellectual debate between the -- those who wanted to an international fiat currency which was embodied in John Maynard Keynes' construct of a banker, and he was there in 1944, holding forth with all of his prestige, but couldn't counter the fact that the United States dollar was convertible into gold and that was the major draw. Everyone wanted America's gold. And I think that Benn really described that in extraordinarily useful terms, as far as I can see. Anyway, thank you.
TETT: Right. Well, I'm sure with comments like that, that will be turning you into a rock star amongst the gold bug community.
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Of course, as a reminder, here is Ben Bernanke putting people straight on Gold...