2ndlook

The 2ndlook Gold Report – 2010

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, European History, Gold Reserves, History, India, Media, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on May 29, 2010

Buy gold … young man!

2ndlook has proposed to all and sundry, to buy gold for the last 20 months. Interestingly, a Chinese-blogger-online financial advisor, with some fan-following, going as Maoxian says, “I’d wager $20 that no one can show me an audited trading record for any system that has traded GLD since its inception that has beaten simply buying and holding GLD since then.”(errata – an American blogger, and not Chinese).

Now, 2ndlook is not a hedge fund, or a financial advisor! And will not pretend to be one either. But 2ndlook will take a 2ndlook, and put a context and perspective that others will not. And answer your question, “Is it the time to buy gold!

How far and how high will gold go? Some history before that.

Nixon and Kissinger - 1972 (Courtesy - nytimes.com)

Nixon and Kissinger - 1972 (Courtesy - nytimes.com)

The Nixon Chop

On August 15th, 1971, ‘Tricky Dick’ Nixon emerged from Camp David, on an evening television show, and announced the end of dollar redemption against gold.

For the 10 years, France had been redeeming gold, even sent a French warship to escort gold from US to France. On August 13th, 1971, Britain also made an official request for dollar-redemption – and Nixon shut the door on that possibility.

And that was the end of Bretton Woods Agreement!

Dollar anchor shifts – from gold to oil

Over the next 10 years, the world saw severe stagflation (economic stagnation + price inflation). Gold prices zoomed from US$35 an ounce to US$800 an ounce.

Gold does not have any price-correlation is traditional wisdom! Correlation like inverse, perverse, reverse, positive!

Gold does not have any price-correlation is traditional wisdom! Correlation like inverse, perverse, reverse, positive!

From 1980, President Ronald Reagan, in the next 8 years, persuaded his Middle East allies to pump out more oil – cajoling, mixed with threats – ranging from the Iran to US-led increase in oil production. The resultant drop in oil prices cooled down inflation, strengthened the US dollar.

Surplus revenues from oil-sales by Middle East oil producers, were used to fund US deficit. By 1990, surplus petro-dollars vanished, with the drop in oil prices, and the increased cost of running welfare states in the Middle East.

In the last decade, it was the turn of the Chinese and the Japanese to prop up the dollar.

IN China, many people refer to the dollar as mei jin, or “American gold.” Government officials, businessmen and people on the street all use the term. So if a Chinese person tells you that he owes you 100 American gold, don’t expect a big fortune, because he’s planning to pay you $100.

US has been able to find lenders to bridge their deficit for more than 50 years. From the 1950s to 2010. Europe till the 70s, Middle East up to the 90s, Japan and China, till 2010!

Can the US find another target to fund their deficits.

The collapse of Soviet Union

In the 70s, with out-sized gains in oil, platinum and aluminum prices, the Soviet economy became a powerhouse, funding anti-US regimes across Africa, South America, Asia and the Middle East. Soviet Russia, one of the largest gold producers in the world, made windfall gains.

The expansion in subsidies by the USSR in the 1970-1990 period to its allies and sympathetic regimes created a huge pressure on Soviet finances. A simultaneous drop in oil and gold prices in the 1985-1995 period severely dented Soviet export earnings, leading to the economic collapse of the Soviet Union. In USSR’s economy, after WWII, commodities like oil, natural gas, metals (like gold, platinum, uranium) and timber accounted for 65%-80% of Russian exports.

Reagan managed to increase oil production, decrease Soviet earnings - and create an economic crisis  in the USSR! (Cartoon by David Horsey from seattlepi.com).

Reagan managed to increase oil production, decrease Soviet earnings - and create an economic crisis in the USSR! (Cartoon by David Horsey from seattlepi.com).

Gold sales by central banks

The Central Bank Gold Sales Agreement, further dented gold prices, 1995 onwards. Gordon Brown, the then British Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been under pressure to ‘reveal’ details of British gold sales during this period.

The (British) bullion was sold in 17 auctions between 1999 and 2002, with dealers paying between $256 and $296 an ounce. Since then, the price has increased rapidly. Yesterday, it stood at $1,100 an ounce.

Dark stories are told that this was stolen gold during WWII, going around as the Yamashita gold, the Nazi gold, with marginal characters like Edmond Safra, playing an important role. It is suspected that the Soviet Union unloaded a lot of gold during the glasnost and perestroĭka period under Gorbachev.

The upshot of this was that for the first time in modern history (1800-2000), ‘declared’ gold reserves of governments across the world, reduced to a historic low of 20% of total global reserves.

The Great Collusion

By the end of The Great Depression, and the start of WWII, public sector (all the Governments of the world) owned some 50%-65% of the gold in the world. That is now reduced to less than 20%.

Will the State(s) sit back and allow the citizenry to become so independent – and the State to become ‘powerless’?

Improbable!

Global conclaves on economic matters (the G20 Summits, WTO Summits, the Copenhagen Summit) are getting organized easily and often. A global, mass nationalization of gold to ‘save the global economic system’ may be called for! Instead of warring with each other, Governments may decide to collude and jointly loot their respective citizens in a coördinated manner!

Was the US crackdown on Swiss banks a precursor to the global gold nationalization?

Central Banks own ≈20% of the world’s gold

Central banks the world over, claim to own something over 30,000 tonnes of gold – about 20% of the world’s total gold stocks. Officially, that is. Some of it is double counting. The most obvious example is IMF gold.

Most of IMF’s gold reserves are actually pledge papers by founder-member countries that they will pony up the gold. A book entry. This pledge was covered by a back-to-back with a reverse sale agreement by the IMF back to the pledgor -called ‘restitution agreement’ in IMF lingo.

The Bretton Woods agreement gave birth to IMF and World Bank (Pictured above: Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau speaking at the opening of the Bretton Woods conference on July 8, 1944.; picture credit - nytimes.com).

The Bretton Woods agreement gave birth to IMF and World Bank (Pictured above: Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau speaking at the opening of the Bretton Woods conference on July 8, 1944.; picture credit - nytimes.com).

The hoax of IMF gold

Of the 3005 tons which is held by IMF at ‘designated’ depositories (meaning pledgor central banks), 2600 is covered by the restitution agreement. Of the balance, 403 tons, only some 191 tons remains with IMF. In fact, IMF does not have any gold – apart from 191 tons.

What it has, are pieces of paper that various central banks have given, ‘promising’ gold to the IMF – and this ‘promised’ gold was held in safe custody by the pledgor-central bank on behalf of the IMF.

Is this the right gold price

Estimated global economic output is some US$70 trillion. Gold is now ruling at some US$1200-1250 (per ounce). Total global reserves of gold (private, public, central banks, et al) are estimated at 130,000-140,000 tonnes. In dollar terms, the value of gold stock is US$5.0-5.5 trillion.

Gold futures (Image Source - Wall Street Journal).

Gold futures (Image Source - Wall Street Journal).

If all the liquid capital in the world is measured in gold, then the total capital to output ratio turns out to be 1:14 ratio. For every 1 unit of gold, there are fourteen units of economic production (US$5 trillion of gold gives an output of US$70trillion). Of course, to make this liquid capital productive, other forms of capital are also required – namely land, buildings, factories, technology, education, healthcare, et al. Those could also be similarly valued – and added to the gold capital in the form of gold. Currency would become proxy for gold – and hence all currency units will be ignored as store of capital. Looking at the past, adjusting for inflation,

Gold is still at half the peak set in 1980, after adjusting for inflation. Then, prices rose to $US850, equal to $US2266 today.

If one were to measure gold as a proportion of global /national economy, it may give us a better idea about where gold is headed. Looking at it from this perspective, the upside for gold is definitely less than 100%. Based on current pace of liquidity creation – that is printing of Euros, dollars, yuan, yen, rupees, that various governments are printing. In Western markets, it is seen that

The yellow metal remains in a $1220-$1260 channel for the time being, and is still showing a Kilimanjaro-sized 975 tonne pile of long positions standing and casting a…long shadow in the market.

and … gold revealed some ‘disconcerting’ technical signals on the price charts and that in coming days ‘prices may not ‘necessarily strengthen.’

These weak signals, are largely due to some expected dampening in demand from India during June to September, in the generally slack monsoon season (though not quite so, last year).

Helicopter Ben is using his famous 'printing' technology!

Helicopter Ben is using his famous 'printing' technology!

Gold shortage!

There have been many reports about shortage of gold – in coins and bars form. Now this is strange.

In India, there is no such talk or shortage! The probable reason is that in India, gold lumps are also accepted by customers – without hallmarking! The jewellers, assayers and valuers are dime a dozen. Hence, gold fraud by the trade can be easily detected – especially in raw gold. Not to mention, that there are ‘dharam-kantas’ in every town and village across India – which does gold assaying for free.

In jewellery form, however, there is rampant mis-declaration of purity. So, buying gold in India is, as of now, not a problem!

Due to this ‘shortage’ in some Western markets, for sometime gold futures were cheaper than gold for physical delivery. The US mint and the Perth mint in Australia have suspended coin sales – supposedly, as they were swamped by orders, and demand.

Let us look at old mining and productions figures, to get some context.

All the gold in the world

Annual global gold production at some 2200 tons, is itself seen as an issue! Gold mining companies are “digging deeper to extract dwindling reserves, with mines in South Africa extending as far as 3.8km down” Apart from having to dig deeper, the other issue is “Ore grades have fallen from around 12 grams per tonne in 1950 to nearer 3 grams in the US, Canada, and Australia.”

China, Australia and the 16 other largest mining nations averaged weekly output of 42.3 tonnes last year, researcher GFMS estimates. Even though prices have fallen 5.8 percent to $US1177.10 from a record $US1249.40 an ounce May 14, the median prediction in a Bloomberg survey of 23 traders, analysts and investors is that it will reach $US1500 by the end of the year.

Investment, including bars and coins, almost doubled to 1901 tonnes last year, exceeding jewellery demand for the first time in three decades, according to GFMS. Jewellery will jump 19 per cent to 2100 tonnes this year and industrial use 8 per cent to 398 tonnes, Sydney-based Macquarie Group says.

The gap in demand and supply is being met by scrap sales.

In Southeast Asia, scrap sales, which are routed through Australia and sold on to India, are already up.

“When gold gets to these sorts of levels, Southeast Asia gets interested in dishoarding,” said Nigel Moffatt, treasurer at the Perth Mint in Australia. “We’ve been seeing it now for some weeks.”

Which way the wind blows?

With the world’s largest private reserves of gold, and as the world’s largest consumer of gold, India has a significant role to play in gold prices.

The Bloomberg poll of 23 traders (linked and extracted above), gives a consensus estimate of some US$1500 an ounce.(31.1034768 grams). Which translates to about Rs.21000-23000 per tola (10 gm) range. Dollar rupee exchange rate will also make a difference. That is an appreciation of about Rs.3000-5000 – some 15%-25% from current prices (Rs.18,100-18,500 range). A strong and stable gold price during July-September period could easily see gold cross 21,000 by October. A weak 3 quarter, will corner gold to the 20,000 barrier.

In another post, Maoxian remarks,

Two years ago when I wrote the post, Jim Sinclair’s Crazy Bet, I annoyed the tinfoil hatters. One commenter wondered where a pajama blogger dude sitting in a crappy little Third World apartment would get the money to take a million dollar bet. :-)

I thought it was time for an updated post/chart given the Greek drama and Euro crisis. Recall that Sinclair’s wager was: “Gold will trade at USD $1650 before the second week of January 2011.” Price could still make it there, but looking at the chart, it seems as improbable to me now as it did back in 2008.

Will Government’s scam people out of gold

Let us deconstruct this price upmove.

A US$1650 gold price @Rs.50 to a USD price means some Rs.26,500 per tola. At that rate, in Jan 2ndweek, we are talking about a 45% appreciation in 6 months. Take gold at US$1650 @Rs.42 to a USD, translates to about Rs.22,300 per tola.

At about 21,000-23,000, Indian consumer buying is likely to be anemic – and investment demand from OECD+China will have to make up for weak Indian demand. At Rs.26500 per tola, the Indian consumer may start selling gold – and we may see a small replay of the Hunt Brother’s silver saga in gold. Scrap sales of gold out of India may dampen prices much.

The third scenario may see gold at about 33000-36000 per tola. To do this the Indian rupee must trade at Rs.60 to a dollar, to get Indian consumers to part with their gold. Like the successful scam by Winston Churchill-Montagu Norman between 1929-1939 to loot the Indian peasant of his gold.

We may see a variation on that play!

What happened to Alexander’s loot from India …?

Posted in European History, Gold Reserves, History, Media, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on February 17, 2009

King Otto of Greece wearing Albanian fustanella

Alexander’s retreat from India … empty handed?

Alexander’s campaign to drum up alliances with Indian kings on the borders of his Persian empire did not yield much gold or wealth. Unlike the Persian Empire, most of the gold and wealth in India was diffused and spread. In raid after raid, Alexander came back empty handed – or almost. While he was managing the fires in Bactra and Sogdia, he had to release Scythian prisoners without a ransom. But, while stitching an alliance with Omphis (Ambi /Ambhi), instead he had to pay Ambhi about 1000 talents of gold – which provoked much envy in his camp.

The talk of an Indian invasion provoked assassination conspiracies, demand for release by soldiers and much expenditure. Many of his soldiers – Greeks units, Macedonian veterans, Thessalian cavalry had to be released, after handsome gratuities and payments. New soldiers had to be recruited again at a significant cost.

In antiquity

Unlike Alexander’s experience of poor pickings in India, the Greek image of India, in history, was different. There were wild tales about Indian ants, big as foxes and jackals, that mined gold. These were tales related by Pliny, Herodotus, Strabo, Arrian – partly, based on reports from Megasthenes. And the very same Greek sources show that with each victory, at kingdom after kingdom, Alexander gained little in terms of gold. Unlike many other subsequent raiders.

The case of missing Indian gold

So, where was the famed Indian gold?

Two possible theories suggest themselves. Alexander was singularly unsuccessful in his Indian campaign and could not, hence, obtain any gold. While this may please Indian jingoists, we will suspend opinion on this in face of overwhelming Western historical opinion – though the truth may be otherwise.

The second theory is more intricate – and also stronger. Unlike the description of Persian cities, the description of Indian cities in all the accounts, is of very simple and plain cities. Not one Indian city is extolled for its beauty, or its buildings, palaces or temples. What gives?

War elephants

War elephants

Extant Indian society

Three elements of the Indian economic system were unique till the 19th century – property ownership by the commoners, widespread ownership of gold and absence of slavery (defined as capture, trade and forced labour by humans – without compensation).

The Indian social structure in pre-Alexandrian Indian had widespread gold and property ownership. With complete absence of slavery, wages could also rise above subsistence levels. This restricted the wealth of Indian rulers – and thus impressive monuments, buildings and palaces are rare or non-existent in pre-medieval India. Thus Indian cities were plain and simple. Royal treasuries were hence, meagre.

Colonial Indian rule dispossessed many Indians of their property – and concentrated wealth in the hands of the few – the Thakurs and the Zamindars. Indians were dispossessed of their gold in the Squeeze Indian Campaign of 1925-1945 – started by Churchill and Montagu Norman and continued by Neville Chamberlain.

Greek clothing

Greek clothing

Monopoly in currency

Royal official coinage was only one of the options even in colonial India. This reduced the concentration of wealth which we see in evidence in the Persian Empire – where Darius’ treasury yielded (Greek estimates) more than 100,000 talents of gold (some exaggeration?).

Indian armies could only scaled up by voluntary services and funding. Hence, these motivated and volunteer armies could inflict so much losses on Alexander.

So, what did the Greco-Macedonians take away …

There were more interesting things that Alexander’s armies  took away from India. The odd and interesting things that Alexander carted away were cattle, elephants and the Macedonian national dress – and possibly kissing.

Persian clothing

Persian clothing

Cattle from Punjab

At the battle against the Asvanyas (Khamboj), called by the Greeks as Aspasioi /Aspasii /Assakenoi /Aspasio /Hipasii /Assaceni/Assacani, Osii /Asii /Asoi, and Aseni in Greek records, Alexander took some 230,000 Asiatic humped zebu cattle to, says Arrian, improve cattle stock in Macedonia. Indian agriculture was well advanced by that time – and exports of spices, textiles, iron and steel were significant.

Elephants from India

War elephants were rule changers – and Indians were the only significant trainers, users, and owners of war elephants. Alexander’s successor, Seleucos Nicator, considered by Ptolemy as the possible true successor of Alexander, ceded his possessions East of Persia – to Chandraupta Maurya. As a part of the treaty, Chandragupta also gifted Seleucos 500 elephants which proved invaluable in settling the Daidochi Wars – at the Batle of Ipsus.

The Greek fustanella (drawing By Theofilos Chatzimichalis)

The Greek fustanella (drawing By Theofilos Chatzimichalis)

Clothes

While the above two are well known, the other two interesting that Greco-Macedonian armies took back to Europe were more cultural. First was the current Macedonain national dress – the ‘salvaria’. The entire North West Indian sub-continent, from Punjab to Afghanistan wears the salwar – which is tubular leggings.

This is a unisex garment – like the sari /dhoti also is. And popular all over India today. Unlike other parts of the world, where women were forced to conform to a male standards and prescriptions of dressing, Indian women were free and dressed like their men did (Feminists note – Indian men were forced to dress, like their women did, since you insist). Unisex clothing, saris and dhotis dominated the Indian plains, and the salwars, in the North West mountain regions of India. The Indo-Scythians used leather leggings – which were helpful in case of long marches on horse backs.

These leggings even today called the salvaria in Macedonia. The Persians at that time had the robes – and purple robes were the sign of royalty. The Greeks wore chitons – and peplos. The Greek fustanella similarly, is very much like tribal costumes worn even today by Gujarathi rabari tribals.

Kissing … and Kamasutra

Rabari tribesman in modern Gujarat

Rabari tribesman in modern Gujarat

On kissing, Vaughn Bryant, an anthropologist at Texas A&M, has traced the first recorded kiss back to India, somewhere around 1500 B.C., when early Vedic scriptures start to mention people “sniffing” with their mouths, and later texts describe lovers “setting mouth to mouth.” From there, he hypothesizes, the kiss spread westward when Alexander the Great conquered the Punjab in 326 B.C.

70 years later, RBI remains true to its DNA

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, Environment, European History, Gold Reserves, History, Media by Anuraag Sanghi on January 22, 2009
An bankrupt West is a bad economic model to follow. RBI in the last 3-5 years has shown some independence in policy matters - finally. (Cartoon courtesy - bhra.files.wordpress.com). Click for larger image.

An bankrupt West is a bad economic model to follow. RBI in the last 3-5 years has shown some independence in policy matters - finally. (Cartoon courtesy - bhra.files.wordpress.com). Click for larger image.

there is a curious aspect to the Indian economic System (defined as commentators, policy makers, and academicians). The System systematically thinks in a skewed fashion, and unlike any other System in the world. In particular, it is trigger happy to bring the economy to a screeching halt by raising interest rates, but asleep at the wheel when the economy is in desperate shape — e.g. confidence at historic lows, industrial growth at zero, and exports diving over a cliff. (via Surjit Bhalla: Lazy banking at its finest).

It is not so curious Mr.Bhalla. You only have to look at the history of RBI formation and its objective. Fact is RBI has not outgrown its colonial DNA.

April Fool Joke – The RBI

On April 1st, 1934, while the ‘Squeeze India’ campaign was under execution – and being choreographed by Montagu Norman, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and Lord Willingdon, RBI, India’s banking authority was set up. From that April Fool’s day till now, RBI character has not changed. It remains isolated, out of touch with the India – and looks at India through colonial viewing glasses.

First things, first …

RBI and the Colonial India Government initiated many reports on the ‘condition’ of the Indian economy. Based on these reports, they passed many of the laws restricting money lending activities. These reports – Central Banking Enquiry Committee (CBEC) report (1929) and its associated Provincial Banking Enquiry Committee reports (of Assam, Bombay, Burma, Ceylon, Central Provinces, Bengal, Punjab, et al) of which the Madras Provincial Banking Enquiry Committee (MPBEC) report is cited by lazy academics and out-moded bureaucratsas authoritative – even in post-colonial era.

Western economies have been hiding their economic stagnation for the last 10 years by handing out loans to voters, industry and banks. For how long can this system work? Cartoon by Michael Ramirez. Click for larger image.

Western economies have been hiding their economic stagnation for the last 10 years by handing out loans to voters, industry and banks. For how long can this system work? Cartoon by Michael Ramirez. Click for larger image.

Based on these reports co-ordinated by the RBI, Debt Conciliation Acts were passed between 1933 and 1936 by the governments of Assam, Bengal, Central Provinces and Berar, Madras and Punjab; the Punjab Regulation of Accounts Act (1930) and the Debtors Protection Acts of 1935 and other such burdensome laws buried the money lender in mountains of paperwork and licenses. These laws required money lenders to comply with extensive and prolonged compulsory licensing and registration – and extensive recording of transactions and accounts.

What these laws achieved was what was desired – a license for police and other ‘inspectors’ to start an extortion racket from money lenders (these days called corruption). A bureaucrat from colonial Punjab, Malcolm Darling (1925) shedding crocodile tears stated “the Indian peasant is born in debt, lives in debt and dies in debt” became a by line for tarring the money lender – while the cause was extractive, colonial revenue practices.

Options foreclosed

While the world was reeling under a crisis of the Great Depression, these restrictions on money lending foreclosed the liquidity option for the Indian peasant, which would have averted the gold outflow from India and the impoverishment of the Indian peasant. With this legalized persecution, money lenders’ activities were curtailed all over India.

RBI joined in this hounding of the money lenders – which continues to this day. The Bengal Burma link of the ages was broken. Chettiar money lenders were thrown out of Burma. From being a granary of Asia, Burma started declining – and there was no rice for exports. Result – The Bengal Famine of 1943. Tally – 40-50 lakh deaths. Similarly, the role of Chettiars in Singapore was wiped clean.

Subhash Chandra Bose's diplomatic initiatives left the British War efforts nervous and anxious. (Image sources - hindustantimes.com). Click for source image.

Subhash Chandra Bose's diplomatic initiatives left the British War efforts nervous and anxious. (Image sources - hindustantimes.com). Click for source image.

After the fall of Singapore, and the rapid Japanese advance, with Subhash Chandra Bose in the vicinity, a revolt by Bengal would have had catastrophic effect on the colonial administration. Howard Fast, in his novel ‘The Pledge’ believes that the Bengal Famine was deliberate creation – possibly to weaken the local population.

Elephants in the room

Firstly, the answer to your curiosity cannot come from the West. And since, the Indian English press (especially), depends on the West for cues, they miss out some vital elements. For instance, how the Indian economy was used to meet Britain’s Post WW1 liabilities. To ‘dampen’ gold demand for India, the Indian rupee was put on fixed overvalued rate vis-a-vis the sterling.

Indian exports crashed, imports ballooned. Indian accounts would be settled at ‘official’ silver prices, with inflated silver released by the US under the Pittman Act. Gold prices were deflated – and Indians would therefore have to pay more in gold. Thus with with a combination of inflated silver price, deflated gold price, high interest rates and an overvalued Indian rupee, the Indian economy was strangled. Few Western writers or books identify this – unwittingly, or deliberately.

RBI was a pawn in this game – and it remains true to its DNA.

India funded the post WW1 recovery

The mechanics and the development of this plan are laid out in a better book, John Bullion’s Empire by By G. Balachandran. This book traces how much of India’s poverty was a result of economic policies between the two World Wars co-ordinated by these four central bankers.

On October 27th, 1931, the Ramsey Macdonald led “National” Government (Conservatives and Liberals coalition, fearful of the rising Labour Party) in Britain won a huge majority of 554 MPs of 615. The economic crisis of September 1931 (misnamed as the Indian Currency Crisis) was a result of this economic policy which reduced Indian economic activity – resulting in bankruptcy of the Colonial India Government.

Parallel Great Depression era problems in the US, the Weimar Republic problems – and other issues pushed this ‘National’ government to ram through a series of measures (page 130-131) that inflated silver prices, depressed gold prices and raised interest rates in India. The Indian rupee was pegged at a high exchange rate vis-a-vis the sterling. Indian exports crashed. To ensure that Indian farmers had no options, Indian money lenders were regulated and licensed into paralysis. Further the Lees Mody Pact, gave few options to the Indian producers.

Indians were paid, with inflated and abundant silver stock, instead of gold. This silver was the same silver released by the Pittman Act. The silver buffer solution to the gold drain to India was seen as the “only buffer to protect Western gold reserves against the Indian drain (was) a silver buffer.” Of course, later the British Raj decided to settle Indian debts with promissory notes – and not even silver. It was this Indian ‘sacrifice’ which enabled the recovery of the West.

The yawning trench between talk and walk makes Western economiuc theory suspect.

The yawning trench between talk and walk makes Western economiuc theory suspect.

Crash in silver prices

New mines and increased silver production saw a crash in silver prices. US silver coinage was being depreciated due to increasing supplies of silver. On the other side, Britain had a large debt due to WW1. Britain and America stuck a deal at the cost of the Indian subjects of the British Raj. The US passed the Pittman Act which mandated silver sales at more than a dollar per ounce – double the 50c per ounce prevailing price of silver. Britain agreed to settle all Indian debts with silver. Gold prices were deflated. Interest rates in India were increased. Restrictions on gold imports on were placed and gold demand in India was ‘normalized.’

Impoverishment of India

With crashing exports and increased imports, the Indian citizenry had no option but to pay for all essentials and taxes with gold. As a quid pro quo, for this silver for gold scam, the US lent gold to Britain in 1926, which allowed Britain to revert back to the pre-War old standard.

Done over the protests by Gandhiji, trade bodies and merchants and threats of resignation by the Viceroy and his Executive Council , the resulting ‘money famine’ (page 155) had the Lord Willingdon ecstatically say ‘Indians are disgorging gold’ (page 156). Neville Chamberlain pitched in with his classic statement “The astonishing gold mine that we have discovered in India’s hordes has put us in clover.”

Looking back, it was clear that this achieved nothing but the impoverishment of India. In 1948, Montagu Norman had to admit that with these maneuvers “We achieved absolutely nothing, except that we collected a lot of money from a lot of poor devils and gave it to the four winds.”

The RBI was a vital element of this plan.

Ceterus paribus …

Today, in similar situation, the RBI, a colonial era body, continues with these colonial anti-Indian policies. They keep ever-greening and recycle colonial policies. Old laws with new labels and different wordings are made – with the same intent. Kill the money lender. While all this was happening, Indian agriculture and the peasant suffers.

The tragedy is that RBI is not alone. The IAS (a successor to the ICS) and the Planning Commission are the other two. Compare that with the brilliant track record of modern Indian regulators and organizations like the SEBI, TRAI.

India’s Money Lenders – The Colonial Stereotypes

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, European History, Feminist Issues, Gold Reserves, History, Media by Anuraag Sanghi on April 1, 2008

“Families have lost land, farmers have been asked to prostitute their wives to pay off debts …” writes Krittivas Mukherjee / Reuters.

Market Share Of Indian Money Lenders

Outdated Bollywood Style

I wonder what is the source of Krittivas’s article. I wonder how many prostitutes these money lenders have – from their 2,00,00,000 farmer-borrowers. Which era are you in, Bro. Krittivas? Apparently, the ghost of East India Company is alive, well and kicking. Is this the kind of grovelling that has to be done to be a part of Reuters, Krittivas? Friend Krittivas is reading a lot of colonial era propaganda – and seeing old Bollywood movies.

Even Bollywood has stopped this kind of portrayal of money lenders now. TV serials these days have business families as stars of the show.

A financial newspaper, The Mint, dutifully carries this Reuters article. Published jointly by The Hindustan Times and The Wall Street Journal, The Mint, regularly carries such bloopers. In yet another article that the Mint carried, for instance, writes how Indian “cities began suffering chronic milk shortages soon after independence in 1947” – implying that colonial India was the land of milk and honey. This kind of editorial blindness nearly makes me believe that the Indian Government got it right with the previous policy of excluding foreign media.

Some Stats About Money Lenders

There are 34,000 money lenders – and they have lent money to more than 2,00,00,000 farmers. They account for nearly 30% of the rural credit flows – and more credit than all the nationalized banks put together. They charge between 18% to 36% p.a. interest generally. Lesser than what most ‘educated’ credit card users pay – and what ‘modern’ banks charge their English-speaking customers.

So much about ‘usury’ by money lenders.

The Seths Who Funded The East India Companies

The vilification of the money lender by the British Colonial Raj at various times for political and economic gains has unfortunately been carried forward in post-colonial India. The English East India Company (EEIC) was initially funded and grew on Indian capital. The House Of Jagat Seth was most famous – and one of the largest banking families in the world. Virji Vora, Shantidas were other merchant bankers who funded the various European Indian Charter Companies in their trade. EEIC officials could not forget their supplicant status with these ‘seths’ – when they were desperate borrowers.

After 1757, and the occupation of the Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, transactions with the East India Company caused the ruin of many Indian lenders.

The other reason why money lenders were portrayed as villains by the the Colonial administrations was merchandise. Instead of bonded producers of Europe, Indian producers were free to sell their product to the highest bidder. The EEIC found that their contracts could be annulled by repaying the advance amounts. And the weavers and other producers could repay the advances by borrowing from the local money lender.

20th Century Vilification

Later during the Great Depression and the so-called ‘Indian currency crises’, Britain was extracting gold from Indian peasants, to overcome its own problems. For British loot to happen and to make their policies effective, they needed to leave the peasant without options. The only way to do that was to curb the money lender. To achieve this aim, between 1925-1940, enquiry commissions were created – and propaganda ‘reports’ flooded the system.

The colonial India Government passed many of the laws restricting money lending activities. These reports – Central Banking Enquiry Committee (CBEC) report (1929) and its associated Provincial Banking Enquiry Committee reports (of Assam, Bombay, Burma, Ceylon, Central Provinces, Bengal, Punjab, et al) of which the Madras Provincial Banking Enquiry Committee (MPBEC) report is cited by lazy academics and out-moded bureaucrats as authoritative – even in post-colonial era.

April Fool Jokers?

April Fool Jokers?

April Fool Joke – The RBI

On April 1st, 1934, while the ‘Squeeze India’ campaign was under execution India’s banking authority was set up – choreographed by Montagu Norman, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill (some sickness … some racism) Lord Willingdon. From that April Fool’s day till now, RBI’s character has not changed. It remains isolated, out of touch with the India – and looks at India through colonial viewing glasses.

The tragedy is that RBI is not alone. The IAS (a successor to the ICS) and the Planning Commission are the other two. Compare that with the brilliant track record of modern Indian regulators and organizations like the SEBI, TRAI.

Legalized Harassment & Extortion

Debt Conciliation Acts were passed between 1933 and 1936 by the governments of Assam, Bengal, Central Provinces and Berar, Madras and Punjab; the Punjab Regulation of Accounts Act (1930) and the Debtors Protection Acts of 1935 and other such burdensome laws buried the money lender in mountains of paperwork and licences. These laws required money lenders to comply with extensive and prolonged compulsory licensing and registration – and extensive recording of transactions and accounts.

What these laws achieved was what was desired – a license for police and other ‘inspectors’ to start an extortion racket from money lenders (these days called corruption). A bureaucrat from colonial Punjab, Malcolm Darling (1925) shedding crocodile tears stated “the Indian peasant is born in debt, lives in debt and dies in debt” became a by line for tarring the money lender – while the cause was extractive, colonial revenue practices.

Options Foreclosed

These restrictions on money lending foreclosed the liquidity option for the Indian peasant, which would have averted the gold outflow from India and the impoverishment of the Indian peasant. With this legalized persecution, money lenders’ activities were curtailed all over India. RBI joined in this hounding of the money lenders – which continues to this day. The Bengal Burma link of the ages was broken. Chettiar money lenders were thrown out of Burma. From being a granary of Asia, Burma started declining – and there was no rice for exports. Result – The Bengal Famine of 1943. Tally – 40-50 lakh deaths. Similarly, the role of Chettiars in Singapore was wiped clean.

After the fall of Singapore, and the rapid Japanese advance, with Subhash Chandra Bose in the vicinity, a revolt by Bengal would have had catastrophic effect on the colonial administration. Howard Fast, in his novel ‘The Pledge’ believes that the Bengal Famine was deliberate creation– possibly to weaken the local population.

Subhash Chandra Bose occupied a large mindshare within and outside India. (Image source and courtesy - editstreet.com). Click for a larger image.

Subhash Chandra Bose occupied a large mindshare within and outside India. (Image source and courtesy - editstreet.com). Click for a larger image.

The RBI, a colonial era body, continues with these colonial anti-Indian policies. They keep ever-greening and recycle colonial policies. Old laws with new labels and different wordings are made – with the same intent. Kill the money lender. In all this, it is Indian agriculture and the peasant who suffers.

Even the rare modern supporter of the money lender does not see the colonial baggage that India and Indians governance carries, sees only half the picture – and little opportunity.

The Pre-WW2 Currency Crisis

After (colonial) India’s accession to the world gold standard in 1898, India rapidly built up a export surplus – and British reserves of gold started drying up – in spite of gold export restrictions to India by the USA, Britain and much of the Western world. There was hysteria in popular press and politicians on the subject of India and its appetite for gold. To overcome this payment crisis, it was decided to pay India in silver released by the Pittman Act. Subsequently, even payments in silver became difficult. India then started getting paid by Bank Of England credit notes.

By WW1 end, it was evident that sooner rather than later, India would obtain independence. Between 1920-40, in a series of measures, it was decided to reverse this policy. Central bankers from the USA, Britain, France and Germany had many meetings to “coordinate monetary policy.” The agenda – gold flow management between themselves and an obvious understanding – don’t let the browns get the gold. They (Hjalmar Schacht, Governor, Reichsbank, Charles Rist, Deputy Governor, Banque de France, Benjamin Strong, USA Federal Reserve, Montagu Norman, Bank Of England) agreed that Indian demand for gold had a “deflationary effect on global liquidity,” therefore “Indian demand for gold had to be regulated.” So, while the West consumed Indian production and goods, they regulated Indian demand for gold!! The result – Bengal Famine of 1943 which killed 40-50 lakh Indians. As Gideon Polya has pointed out, Australian sheep have lower mortality rates.

Like much of Western history, the British (Lord Willingdon, Neville Chamberlain, Montagu Norman, Winston Churchill – as the Chancellor of the Exchequer) executed a scorched earth policy in India. (After all what is brown life worth?) They implemented a series of economic and administrative measures that killed millions in the Bengal Famine would impoverish India – and sustain the empire.

Montagu Norman, Winston Churchill (then the Chancellor of the Exchequer) returned to the gold standard – with the famous prediction by Keynes that this action would result in a world wide recession – of which much came to pass. Churchill confessed “I’m lost and reduced to groping,” but went along with Montagu Norman, united by their racism.

The National GovernmentOn October 27th, 1931, the Ramsey Macdonald led “National” Government (Conservatives and Liberals coalition, fearful of the rising Labour Party) in Britain won a huge majority of 554 MPs of 615. The economic crisis of September (misnamed as the Indian Currency Crisis), ensuing Depression era problems in the US, the Weimar Republic problems – and other issues pushed this ‘National’ government to ram through a series of measures (page 130-131) that depressed silver prices, inflated gold prices and raised interest rates in India.

Done over the protests by Gandhiji, trade bodies and merchants and threats of resignation by the Viceroy and his Executive Council , the resulting ‘money famine’ (page 155) had the Lord Willingdon ecstatically say ‘… Indians are disgorging gold … (page 156). Indians have a different reason to revile Neville Chamberlain who with great satisfaction said “…The astonishing gold mine that we have discovered in India’s hordes has put us in clover …”after impoverishment of the Indian serf.

What Can be Done

The largest rural credit agency system, which knows Indian agriculture like the back of its hand, is available to the Indian economy. Trash the colonial propaganda – and use these money lenders.

Step 1 – Stop calling them money lenders. This term was used and has acquired pejorative connotations.

Step 2 – Bring them under SEBI – an effective organization, not reputed for corruption.

Step 3 – Increase credit supply – and interest rates will automatically fall. Allow re-finance to these ‘banias’ – based on their loan books.

Step 4 – Create credit enhancement tools – by use of traditional adhatiyas, other money lenders, property collateral of the end user, etc.

Step 5 – Induce competition by simplifying registration and inducing initial success for existing and new comers.

These credit experts can become low cost credit delivery mechanisms – which will revolutionize Indian agriculture. Will Indian planners grow out of their colonial moulds? Will Indian legislation go native? Sooner the better.

What Can The Money Lenders Do?

Under generations of persecution, extortion and discrimination has blunted the organizational capability of the ‘native money lender.’ He needs to look at himself afresh – and exploit business opportunities and use his knowledge of the Indian financial ‘consumer.’

A simple outline of an action plan for the money lenders to reclaim their position can be as follows: –

1. Incorporate a holding company.

2. Contribute one lakh rupees capital per member – with 34,000 members.

3. Create a paid up promoter capital of Rs.340 crores – and an IPO for 660 crores.

4. Obtain RBI licence for a rural bank with this paid up capital of 1000 crores.

5. Enrol all money lender members as DSAs.

6. Refinance money lender portfolio – and create further liquidity.

7. Use the money lender network to raise deposits, sell insurance, obtain refinance mortgage for housing, etc.

Even a conservative estimate of Rs.1.00 crore lending, guaranteed by these money lenders can inject Rs.34,000 crores of investment in the agricultural economy in India. SEBI can be co-opted to create appropriate supervisory and oversight measures.

Post Script – The source of Krittivas’s article

It is 6 months and Krittivas has not seen it fit to give sources or details of his dubious charges. So, let me give the details. This entire story of prostitution of wives to money lenders was a colonial idea that the British plagiarised from a very successful French Emile Zola novel, Germinal (1885).

Of course, most of Zola’s work was propaganda for the Socialist causes that were dear to him. The Vatican banned Germinal – and proscribed its reading by Catholics. India’s vernacular press fighting for survival had no sources to overcome this propaganda. Indian English press was, of course, under colonial domination. When Emile Zola died in 1902, he was given a State funeral and the crowd chanted ‘Germinal, Germinal’.

Does this give you some idea, Bro.Krittivas, on how much propaganda we are targetted with, before you start hitting the keyboard.

Sovereign Gold – How Safe Is Indian Gold …

Posted in Gold Reserves, History, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on November 15, 2007

How safe are the world’s largest reserves of gold?

India, with the largest (private and government) reserves of gold in world, needs to examine the safety question. While, there have been many advocates and supporters for many European claims, I am yet to see any support for reclaim of any of loot from weaker nations by some of the temporarily dominant powers.

In spite of close cultural and economic relations, WW2 was started by countries of Western world for gold, oil and access to markets. With excess of printing capacity, any country in world can print notes. During any period of turmoil, what matters is gold. After all, even India with the largest gold reserves in the world, needed to pledge gold in 1991 for small loan from IMF and World Bank.

Is our gold safe? Look at the experience of some of these countries.

(L-R) Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald of Great Britain and Governor of The Bank of England Montague Norman attending diplomatic reception at Austrian Legation. 1932, Photographer - Erich Salomon

(L-R) Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald of Great Britain and Governor of The Bank of England Montague Norman attending diplomatic reception at Austrian Legation. 1932, Photographer - Erich Salomon

Belgian Gold

Anticipating German invasion of the Netherlands, the National Bank of Belgium moved some part of its gold reserves to Bank of France, for safe keeping. However, after France itself came under attack, Belgium instructed the French to transfer Belgian gold to London.

The French instead, moved that gold to Dakar, Africa, to a French bank. After the fall of France, Pierre Laval, Foreign Minister in the French Vichy government of Marshal Petain, handed over the gold to Hitler’s Germany – which reportedly, recast this gold, put pre-war stampings and sold it to the Swiss. What happened after that. Well, the Belgians lost it all, I presume.

British Experience

Britain itself found that the they could buy anything only with gold. A staunch ally like the USA, demanded payments in gold. Britain sold the Viscose Company, receiving a paltry amount. British investments in Canada were disposed to pay US for for raw materials.

A significant part of British gold reserves, were safely moved to Canada on board the battleship Revenge and HMS Emerald to the vaults of Bank Of Canada (which still acknowledges the British crown) banks. American warship, Louisville was sent to Simonstown South Africa to take delivery of British gold.

Czech Gold Diversion

After Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, under the British-Czech treaty, Britain was enjoined to join the war on the Czech side. Instead, Montagu Norman, the head of Bank Of England, under a technicality, handed over Czech Gold to the Germans – in spite of the British Parliamentary restrictions; a supposedly secret transaction, blown open by a connected reporter.

After many enquiries, investigations, Montagu Norman, (yes, the same racist who collaborated with Churchill to loot the Indian peasantry) was let off without even a rap on his knuckles. After the war, Montagu Norman set up an institute to do research (like Joseph Mengele) in eugenics. His former boss, another racist, Churchill, set his armies on the Mau Mau, fighting for Kenya’s independence, and hundreds of thousands black Kenyans disappeared. Did the Czechs get their gold back? I doubt!

Central BanksPortugal, Spain

From the 1980s, it became fashionable to hedge, trade, create derivatives, get into junk bonds. And the King Of Junk was Michael Milliken. His company Drexel, Burnham and Lambert.

A subsidiary of Drexel, Burnham and Lambert, used borrowed gold from Central Bank of Philippines, Pitcairn Island, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico – all lost money. Further investigations show that more central banks lost more money – which were finally shown as “gold sales” by many European banks – and there this where things get murky.

Death Of Edmond Safra

Friday. December 3rd, 1999. TV channels (in India too) announced that Edmond Safra died in mysterious circumstances. Based out of Monaco, a known off shore finance centre, he is believed to have been in the know and arranged numerous gold dealings. He was supposed to be behind the George Soros run-in with the Bank Of England gold sale and physical delivery.

At the time of his death, he was negotiating the sale of his bank to The Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation – set up with opium earnings by Jardine Matheson and David Sassoon and sundry others.

This time the conspiracy is supposed to have been hundreds of tons of Russian-Soviet gold (looted from Tsars?) and never returned to Soviet Russia – and now sold through Edmond Safra.

French Pragmatism

Before, during and after WW2, large numbers of national and private treasures were looted, misappropriated and generally fell into disputes. The French Government had a similar experience .

Secret of Japan‘s rise

Year 1542. The Sado gold mines were discovered. In 16th-17th century, Japan became the second largest producer of gold in the world. Rapid rise of Japan after that and the rest of story is known to the world.

Korea claims that Japan plundered Korea of hundreds of tons of gold from 1937-1944. Philipines, Indonesia have all raised claims against Japan for war time gold loot.

Regardless, one American writer had definitely hit a jackpotGold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold (By Sterling Seagrave, Peggy Seagrave). Ian Fleming is supposed to have based his story on the Yamashita chapter of WW2.

Japan’s top underworld crime boss, Taisho (Admiral) Yoshio Kodama, (ranked as an admiral at 34 years) a major figure in the Japanese underworld was in charge of Project “Golden Lilly” – after one of Hirohito’s poems! Objective – looting gangsters in Japanese occupied territories. Supervising the operations was Emperor’s Hirohito’s brother, Prince Chicubi. Management – Japan’s top financial figures.

Subsequently, allegedly, a lot of this gold landed with Ferdinand Marcos; the Filipino dictator. Swiss banks, Macao criminals, American generals and politicians – all involved.

Glen Yeadon, writer of “The Nazi Hydra in America: Suppressed History of a Century” writes how Presscott Bush (grand-father of George Bush), Douglas MacArthur were involved in various launderings, diversions and subterfuge involving Nazi gold and Japanese gold after WW2.

The Melmer Account

After WW2, and fall of Germany, at the Mercker mines, occupying armies found Nazi treasures.

And details of a bank account.

Vladimr Lenin and Joseph Stalin

Vladimr Lenin and Joseph Stalin

The bank account held in the name of Bruno Melmer, a SS captain. Further investigations revealed that this account received various looted material of the German Army – and gold recovered from Jews killed in concentration camps. After due investigations these files were returned to the the concerned German bank. In 1975, a journalist Peter Bild discovered that all these files had disappeared.

So had the gold.

Spain and Gold

For nearly 10 years, the Spanish Civil War raged – a proxy war between the Germans and Russians. The target, Spanish gold. In the see-saw of the civil war, entire Spanish gold disappeared – between the maws of the French and the Russians. Reputedly, Stalin boasted that Spain will never see their gold again.

I am sure the ghost of Incas were at peace after 400 years.

Hitler-Pavelic meeting

Hitler-Pavelic meeting

Ustashi Gold

During WW2, after Hitler’s sweep across the Balkans, a Nazi puppet government of Ante (Anton) Pavelic, headed the “Catholic State of Croatia.” Archbishop A. Stepanic established a Croat Separatist Movement and seized power with Ante Pavelic. The Pavelic regime supported “Clerical Fascism” – a mix of Catholic religion, Anti-Semitism and authoritarian politics. Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany’s “Ausland” department assisted Ante Pavelic and his Catholic terrorists to set up a dictatorship. Ante Pavelic was declared Poglavnik – or what we better know as Fuhrer.

Under the Ustashi, a reign of terror descended upon Jews, Gypsies and political dissidents. The Ustashi extorted a fortune in gold and other valuables from Jews and Gypsies and thereafter shipped them to work in concentration camps. The Jews have a well-organised lobby, an organisation and a nation which has pursued banks, criminals, countries for recovery of their property.

What happened to the Roma Gypsies (claim they are of Indian descent). Nothing. Sweet nothing at all.

Quantity Of Gold – 2400 kgs atleast.

The Final Accounting

Nazi gold was found by various armies and individuals all over Europe. In Lake Toplitz and in the Thuringien salt mines. Finally,a coordinating agency was set up by Americans for gold recovered by American Armies to account, re-distribute and reconcile claims. The European banking system, especially the Swiss and the Vatican have been subject to various claims, allegations and conspiracy theories.

%d bloggers like this: