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ETFs - Jersey’s big freezers

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.       Proverbs: 11: 24


The Book of Proverbs, now in the middle of the Old Testament in Christian Bibles, was of course a Jewish book. It was a national archive of pithy sayings brought together by King Solomon who reigned in Jerusalem from 971 – 931 BC. This king was renowned for his wisdom and accumulated the proverbs from many different sources.


Interesting, then to read, in bold above, an aphorism from around 3,000 years ago. These folk weren’t in caves clubbing a girl for a mate.


This particular word of wisdom basically says “one gives yet grows rich; another gets yet stays poor.”


Those in Jersey who clamour for special ring-fencing from Jersey’s painful budgetary cuts might take heed. It’s better to ensure the needs of others are met than seek protection from cuts.


In fact, there’s a past edge to this sword as well. Maybe if Jersey had been more generous to the poor, weak and starving we would now be even richer.......


But it’s the second half of the proverb that is the most intriguing. “Another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” How can that be?


Withholds? That reminds one of freezers at times of food shortages. Folk stock up. They withhold food from others so that they will “have” when others “haven’t”.  More to the point, perhaps, Jersey folk and others stock up now so that they will profit from the shortages.


Beware, however. Beware, because when all families stock their freezers a real food shortage occurs when there was none before. Prices rise. The poor, the weak and the starving suffer pain - or worse.

One senior person in Jersey’s finance industry has moral concerns about stocking freezers of a different kind. Exchange Traded Funds - ETFs.

·         For a long time gold funds have existed in Jersey. Folk buy “units” (shares) in a physical stock of gold. As more and more investors put money into gold funds the amount of gold held (withheld, actually, by being buried in bank vaults) increases. The withholding doesn’t matter much because gold is not food: its principal use is for jewellery. No gold around = no jewellery or expensive jewellery = no problem. So Jersey’s gold funds have freezers (not in Jersey) full of withheld gold.

·         But investors around the world are now seeing that there are likely to be shortages of important “technology minerals” and “rare earth” metals used in manufacturing and for all kinds of practical purposes. China has some of these natural resources and is seeking more. Japan is short of them. They are scarce – and essential.

·         So, how about funds that are backed, not by gold but by these minerals and metals as well as by other key commodities? Yes! A money maker!

·         These Jersey funds are growing in popularity and all need “freezers” to hold the metals that are held or, rather “withheld”. Jersey arranges these “freezers”. The more money invested; the more minerals and metals “withheld”; the greater the “profit”..


Solomon’s proverb says, “...another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” When does that want arise? Who knows? But market cornering generally comes to grief.


What about the first half of Solomon’s proverb? “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer...” When does that arise?


The most important word in that half of the proverb must surely be the word “freely”. We in our minds would love to re-write the proverb and say, “One gives, and grows all the richer”. But that is not the 3,000 year old wisdom.


One gives freely.... There’s only one man whose life was a truly free gift. Jesus Christ, Son of Man, Son of God, freely gave his life so that others might have the life of God within for ever. His followers are not happy in the withholding business. They want to be like Him.

‘To live as contemporary Christians means at least this – to take account of the fact that our neighbours are made in the image of God.' (Paul Helm)
‘Who can deny that Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate Son of the Most High God, is the eternal glory of the human race?'  (Benjamin Disraeli, British prime Minister, 1804-1881)
Richard Syvret

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