Regional countries holding significant gold reserves

12/11/2012

Regional countries can use their gold reserves to maintain financial stability, economists said.

By Katica Djurovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 09/11/12

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Regional gold reserves range from 295 tonnes in Turkey to 1.5 tonnes in Albania. [AFP]

Southeast Europe and Turkey have significant gold reserves that they can leverage during the economic crisis when the demand and the price of gold tend to increase, according to economists.

Last year, the price of gold increased 10 percent because investors perceived gold as a good alternative to unstable currencies and fluctuating stock prices.

"The value of gold is always higher during crisis," Damjan Mencej, director of the Ilirika Gold Investment Fund in Belgrade, told SETimes.

"At a time when a kilogram of gold is worth 42,600 euro on the world market, Serbia's 14.8 tonnes of gold are worth nearly 600 million euro," he said.

Gold is not used as currency since the 1970s but banks -- including in the region -- store and use gold because of the gold market and price are stable.

Turkey leads the region with 295 tonnes of gold and is ranked 18th globally, according to the World Gold Council report published last month.

The report ranks Greece 32nd with 111 tonnes, Romania 34th with 103 tonnes and Bulgaria 47nd with 39 tonnes.

Serbia, Macedonia, Cyprus, BiH, and Albania make the report's list of top 100 gold reserve countries, while Croatia, Montenegro and Kosovo do not have gold reserves.

"Increasing levels of inflation, the US credit rating drop and the worsening of Eurozone debt crisis contributed to increasing gold reserves in order to protect property," Oscar Kovac, economics professor at Megatrend University in Belgrade, told SETimes.

"It is a perfect reserve; governments and central banks believe in gold as their financial reserve because it serves as anchor in time of crisis, a traditional and verified insurance for rainy days," Kovac said.

"Gold is liquid; traders trade gold 24 hours a day. It is also a universal currency. One can sell gold everywhere," he added.

Serbia has the biggest gold reserve among the former Yugoslav states, and experts said the success is a result of prudent financial management by Serbia's national bank.

"We did not sell any gold from our reserves in the past several years. Our policy for now is to keep it," Zorica Negojevic, spokesperson of the National Bank of Serbia, told SETimes.

Negojevic said the bank can use the gold reserve to maintain financial stability -- conduct monetary policy through interventions in the foreign exchange market and sustain payments liquidity.

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If it decides to sell some of the gold, it would offer it to central banks, commercial and international banks, she added.

Some Serbian politicians, however, have proposed to invest the gold in the economy to prompt economic recovery, but economists warn big gold reserves are no guarantee an economy will perform well.

"Using money from the gold reserves to support a failing economy is a bad idea. That way the little trust that our country has in the international community will melt," Kovac, said.

"The use of foreign exchange reserves for other purposes not in accordance with the laws and decisions of the NBS and can jeopardize the financial stability of the country," Negojevic said.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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