On November 30th, the Swiss are voting whether to amend their country's constitution on an initiative entitled 'Save our Swiss Gold.' The Swiss gold initiative appears widely misunderstood, both inside and outside of Switzerland. We discuss implications for gold, the Swiss franc and Switzerland as a whole.
The initiators of the gold initiative appeal to Swiss citizens desire not to sell out the 'family silver.' In the late 90's, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) owned 2,590 tons of gold; since then 1,550 tons have been sold at prices farlower than today's prices. While the Swiss might like their gold, they are fiercely independent. That's relevant because by imposing a ceiling of the Swiss franc versus the euro, the SNB has de facto imposed the euro on Switzerland, a step closer to joining the euro – something many Swiss object to. More importantly, many Swiss may find it inappropriate for what is supposed to be an apolitical body like the SNB to impose policies with major political ramifications.
Not surprisingly, the Swiss government – which opposes the initiative – does not frame the discussion this way, but instead talks about the flexibility the SNB needs to implement its policies. It also points to the 'losses' incurred in 2013 when the price of gold fell.