A landlocked nation perched between China and Kazakhstan is embarking on an experiment with little parallel worldwide: shifting savings from cattle to gold.
One of the first post-Soviet republics to adopt a new currency and let it trade freely, Kyrgyzstan’s central bank wants every citizen to diversify into gold. Governor Tolkunbek Abdygulov says his “dream” is for every one of the 6 million citizens to own at least 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of the precious metal, the Central Asian country’s biggest export.
“Gold can be stored for a long time and, despite the price fluctuations on international markets, it doesn’t lose its value for the population as a means of savings,” he said in an interview. “I’ll try to turn the dream into reality faster.”
In the two years that the central bank has offered bars directly to the population, about 140 kilograms of bullion have been sold, Abdygulov, 40, said by phone from the capital, Bishkek.
“We are hopeful that our country’s population will learn to diversify its savings into assets that are more liquid and — more importantly — capable of retaining their value,” he said. In rural areas, cattle is still the asset of choice for investors and savers, according to Abdygulov.
Kyrgyzstan has bucked a trend among central banks, the biggest owners of bullion, by stepping up buying even as its counterparts cut purchases in 2016 to a six-year low. Global combined bar and coin demand fell, according to the World Gold Council.