After banks, the government is considering allowing non-banking financial companies and (NBFCs) some other financial institutions to take gold deposits to boost the performance of the gold monetisation scheme, a senior finance ministry official told FE. Any such move could facilitate the participation of players like Muthoot Finance and Manappuram Finance, which have been major players in the gold loan segment for decades and have a solid base of customers, in the monetisation scheme. The finance ministry’s proposal is crucial, as the monetisation scheme has witnessed deposits of just 7-8 tonnes since its launch in November 2015. The ministry will step up discussions with stakeholders on how to convince temples and trusts that are sitting on huge piles of gold and don’t have much problem in melting their gold stocks to participate in this scheme in a big way.
The scheme requires customers to agree to get their gold jewellery or bars or coins melted for assessing purity and weight, only after which the deposits can be made in a bank.
Although the scheme has garnered only a very tiny fraction of the country’s voracious appetite for gold (despite falling to a seven-year low, India’s gold consumption was as much as 675 tonnes in 2016), the mop-up of 7-8 tonnes so far represents a more than sevenfold rise in one year, albeit on a small base. A senior executive at a major NBFC currently offering loans against gold as collateral said: “It’s a sensible move to allow NBFCs to take gold deposits. But for the scheme to be a success, the government needs to first improve infrastructure and raise awareness among people.”
Harish Galipelli, head of commodities and currencies at Inditrade Derivatives & Commodities, said: “Allowing NBFCs under the monetisation scheme is a good move, as players like Muthoot and Manappuram already have expertise in gold loan business. With their entry, the infrastructure will also improve, and so will awareness among people about the scheme.” Muthoot alone claims to serve 2,53,000 people on a daily basis for gold loans. While temples and trusts can invest even now, lack of adequate awareness about the scheme and required infrastructure have reduced the appeal of the monetisation scheme. Nevertheless, a major chunk of the deposits so far has been made by temples and trusts.
The limited number of collection and purity testing centres, more so in rural areas that account for massive stocks of household gold, has severely squeezed the scope of the scheme. Also, the unwillingness of housewives to get jewellery having emotional appeal melted so that they can be deposited has also dented the appeal of the scheme.
The scheme offers investors annual tax-free interest of up to 0.6% for short-term gold investments (up to three years), 2.25% for the medium term (5-7 years) and 2.5% for the long term (12-15 years). The interest is denominated in gold. The central bank maintains the gold deposit accounts (denominated in gold) in the name of the designated banks that will, in turn, hold sub-accounts of individual depositors.Analysts say the mindset of the people regarding hoarding gold won’t change over night, but that shouldn’t deter the government.
The scheme was launched in 2015 to tap the massive gold stocks lying with Indian households, together the world’s largest hoarders of gold, to trim imports and contain their debilitating impact on trade balance and current account. The households hold a record 23,000-24,000 tonnes of the precious metal, worth at least $800 billion despite a sharp fall in international prices from their peaks in 2011, according to a recent study by the London-headquartered World Gold Council. The value of the holdings is based on (conservative) international prices, which doesn’t factor in a 10% customs duty. The government is aiming at Rs 5,000 crore from all the gold schemes — sovereign gold bond, gold monetisation and Indian gold coin — in 2017-18, compared with Rs 3,809 crore (revised estimate) in 2016-17, representing just about 2% of the country’s annual consumption.