For generations, India has been known as one of the world's primary sources of gold demand. However, last year its gold imports fell off considerably due to a variety of new policies by the Indian government regarding gold ownership, taxation, and even the supply of paper money in the country.
2017 has seen a huge turnaround for the Indian gold market, luckily.
For a number of reasons relating to the unpopular anti-gold (and even anti-cash) policies pursued by the administration of Indian Prime Minister Modi, many Indian citizens have decided not to delay any gold purchases they may have planned on making this year.
The main impetus for the rush to buy gold now is observers of India's financial policy have long anticipated the forthcoming GST, or Goods and Service Tax. It is seen as—like all laws relating to money in India, it seems—especially burdensome on bullion dealers and honest gold buyers. The new levy will be implemented for the first time this month and represents a fundamental restructuring of the country's tax system.
According to Mining.com, "The long-awaited GST is India's biggest tax overhaul since independence in 1947, and will replace a slew of federal and state levies when it's rolled out in July. But the tax could be tough for small gold retailers to handle."
The swell of investors and regular gold buyers in India who are pushing up their typical seasonal purchases are now rushing to avoid the GST. This has been borne out in import data: During all of 2016 India imported only about 500 metric tonnes of gold, or about 50% to 60% of its normal annual tonnage. So far, in only the first half of 2017, India's gold imports have already exceeded last year's total.
According to most analysts, this resurgence in Indian gold demand (in spite of so many existing state impediments to gold ownership and a heavily regulated gold market) is directly correlated to conscious avoidance of the GST. This is rational behavior in a free market, after all.
The restrictions on gold imports have naturally increased gold smuggling into the country, a constant headache for Indian authorities. The rate of gold purchases during H1 2017 does nominally put India back on pace for roughly 1,000 tonnes this year, closer to its peak during the previous five years, although the GST can be expected to cool off some of that demand during the second half.
The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.