Vietnam's gold holdings worth nearly half of GDP

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Vietnam's gold holdings are valued at up to 45 percent of the country's gross domestic product, according to financial estimates from international groups.

The World Gold Council estimated that Vietnam's gold holdings amount to roughly 1,000 tons while the UK's precious metals consultancy company GFMS estimated that amount hovered closer to 460 tons, according to VnExpress reports about a speech given Thursday by Le Xuan Nghia, deputy head of the National Financial Supervisory Committee.

Based on these estimates, Vietnam's total gold holdings could range from 20 to 45 percent of the country's GDP, Nghia said. That compares to a ratio of less than 3 percent of most other countries, he said.

"Most of those holdings are maintained by private individuals while official reserves at the central bank are insignificant," Nghia said. "This means that there is a major financial resource that has not been used for the production sector"¦ These unofficial funds also put a pressure on the currency market, account balances, monetary policies and economic growth."

VnExpress reported that several experts had cited similar estimates of Vietnam's gold holdings in the past. The State Bank of Vietnam, however, has not announced gold statistics.

In February, the government introduced its plan to tighten control on gold trading. The central bank is expected to submit a draft decree regarding regulation of the gold market by the end of this month.

VnExpress further reported that officials once considered limiting the gold bullion trade to one-way sales to the central bank. However, it's likely that the final version of the decree will still allow people to buy and sell gold at authorized retailers, the news website said, without citing any source.

At Thursday's meeting, Le Duc Thuy, former governor of the central bank, said that there is no doubt about high customer demand for gold in Vietnam. The habit was formed during wartime and has persisted due to high inflation. 

When there is such a demand, it's necessary to have a legal framework to facilitate legitimate gold trading, he said.

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