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Commentary

Sell All The Excess Gold In Temples

Problem: India imports too much gold.

Facts: There is a lot of gold lying in temple vaults, including jewellery, donated by people over years. This does nothing but lie around and temples have already done all the decorating they need. .

Just one temple in Kerala has over 100,000 crore – $18 billion – worth of gold and jewellery beyond the dressings of the diety. The Tirupati temple even deposits one ton of gold a year with SBI and supposedly had 200 tons of gold. Households and temples together probably own 25,000 tons of gold – I believe temples then would have at least 2,000 tons of the metal.

Answer: Sell Excess Gold, Give Them Rupees

Temples have no real need for the gold, and they are non-profit entities. All gold that is received should be melted, converted into bricks and coins and sold in an online auction every month. If needed, the RBI can buy all that gold, or, with an online auction held at commodity exchanges, anyone can buy and take delivery. All the money received should go to the temple’s bank  account. (It’s not the government’s property)

There’s no real reason why a temple should hoard gold. And that applies to temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras or what have you. The gold is not “God” and if it’s a gift, it still remains a gift converted to rupees, that’s all.

(Oh, and please, tax any income on that money that is made by religious entities)

India imports 860 tonnes of gold a year. At Rs. 3,000 per gram, this means a bill of about 2.54 trillion rupees (lakh crores). Getting 200 tons of gold out of the temples every year for the next few years will help bridge the gap.

Religion can come in the way, and in that, emotions run amok. Sequestering of temple gold might take a leap of faith, literally.

Update

In one way I would agree that it is wrong to force a temple or anything to do something specific with their money.

But there is one thing governments can do to steal our money: make us pay tax.

I believe temples are, for the most part, not taxed, but they should be. The new NGO norms dictate that NGOs should spend 85% of the money they collect (outside of a restrained corpus collection measure), or they are taxed on the difference. Temples and mosques and churches should be taxed similarly.

And since the tax can only be paid in rupees, temples that receive most of their donations in gold will have to sell the gold to pay up.

However the main point is that temples hoard gold for the same reason that the rest of us do: To avoid the tax we pay due to inflation; The only real long term way to make gold unattractive is to have sustained periods of very very low inflation, which means keeping the money supply cramped.

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