A Survey of Palestine’s Progress

The following is the second of two articles by a correspondent of the Manchester Guardian appraising Jewish achievement in Palestine

An English government official summarizing the extraordinary development of Palestine during the last year and a half, said that the Jewish National Home had materialized. That is true in two senses. More than at any previous period since the British occupation the Home has established itself in the conviction of all sections of the population of Palestine and in public opinion outside Palestine.

At the same time the immense development may seem to be predominantly material. The figures of economic expansion, whether one looks at the affairs of the government or at private enterprises, speak for themselves. In this article it is proposed to deal with the progress shown by the government returns.

CUSTOMS RETURNS HIGH

The most significant figures of the economic development of the country are those of the customs returns. Till two years ago the customs revenue had not exceeded £1,000,000 a year, and that figure was regarded as exceptionally high. It represented about forty per cent of the total revenue.

It is expected that the revenue for the fiscal year 1934-35 will be in the neighborhood of £3,000,000. The monthly returns from import duties are steadily going up. For the month of October they reached the unprecedented total of £300,000. There has, of course, been no raising of the duties; in fact, there has been in several cases reduction. The great increase is due to the ever-growing import of (a) building materials to provide for the industrial enterprises and housing of the new population; (b) foodstuffs to supplement the local supply, which is inadequate as regards the staple commodities; and (c) benzine and petrol for motive-power.

REVENUE EQUALS EXPENSES

The customs revenue this year will be more than enough to support all the charges of government. The surplus of the Palestine administration naturally continues to mount, and that though the government has initiated new social services from its affluence. The surplus amounts to over £3,000,000, and so far as meeting the cost of government is concerned it would be possible to remit all taxation for a year.

Alternatively, the government could grant a bonus of £2 to every inhabitant of the country.

POLICY IS CAUTIOUS

It is not likely to do either of these things, but is following the prudent policy of accumulating a reserve which will enable it to tide over any setback that may follow on the present expansion.

While the figures of the imports into Palestine rise steeply, the figures of the exports rise only gently, and the gap between the value of the imports and the exports is vastly enlarged. That is inevitable and not unhealthy in a country where population and enterprise are growing primarily through immigration.

The increase which there is in the value of exports comes almost entirely from oranges and grapefruit. About 1,000,000 cases a year are added to the export; and that process will continue for years to come provided that new markets can be found.

SEES HUGE CITRUS EXPORT

The area under cultivation of citrus fruit is growing at least in that measure, and some statistician has calculated that if the planting of citrus is maintained at its present rate Palestine will have 40,000,000 cases of oranges to export in 1950.

The young industries of the country, which up to 1932 were showing a small but rising export, are now fully occupied in meeting the local demands, and a nearer adjustment of the balance of trade will probably be found for some time rather through the reduction of manufactured imports than by the increase of manufactured exports.

COIN USE RISES

The figures of the Palestine currency in circulation are another indication of the material prosperity. When the currency was first issued in 1929 the value of the notes and coin in use was about £1,750,000. It rose in 1933 to £2,500,000. It has risen now to over £4,000,000. The profits which the government derives from the coinage are already a substantial item in the revenue account. They will certainly be over £100,000 in this fiscal year.

Turning from figures to the economic enterprises of the government, the most striking achievement is the Haifa Harbor. It was formally opened by the High Commissioner not much more than a year ago, and already the quay accommodation has proved inadequate. There is a proposal to enlarge it at a cost of some £750,000.

PAYS OWN WAY

Economically the harbor is already paying its way. There was a trivial deficit on the working of the first year, but the area reclaimed from the sea in the making of the harbor, which has given Haifa a new front, and the government a large and most valuable site for warehouses, etc., after providing for the needs of the railway, custom-house and other public services—that area is only beginning to be turned to profitable use. When it is disposed of it is likely that the harbor will bring substantial revenue.

The Administration is adding to the main port a small oil port in which the tankers may load and discharge when weather interferes with those operations in the open roadstead. The pipeline from Kirkuk is already discharging its oil regularly at its Haifa outlet, and there is to be a cere####ial in-auguration of the 700-mile subterranean oil-duct in January.

RAIL INCOME RISES

The railways of Palestine, which are entirely controlled by the government, have had, and are having, a hard struggle to compete with the motor traffic both for passengers and for goods. The trunk roads made by the Administration are so good and the network of secondary roads is so large… It is quicker and easier for traffic to go almost anywhere by road than by rail. Nevertheless the railway receipts have shown substantial improvement during the last two years; and if it were not for the heavy interest charges that the Palestine railways are called upon to pay of £160,000 a year they would also be producing revenue. The interest charge is the harder burden, because a considerable part of it was incurred on account of the sum paid to the British government for military expenditure on a railway that was not well suited, or well sited in some parts, for civil conditions. The better economic position of the Palestine railways is due in great measure to the carriage of the heavy goods imported for industries and for building.

SHOPS EMPLOY 700

The railways have now at Haifa their workshops, which had been till the last two years at Kantara., in Egyptian territory. That enterprise gives employment to 700 persons, and the railways are altogether the largest employers of permanent workers. The Public Works Department of the government actually heads them in the number of persons in its employ, but a considerable proportion of their workmen are casuals. The department has at the moment a large and varied program. The major part of the new loan of £2,000,00 which was raised by the government this year will be used for public works.

The principal item is for water supplies and drainage, which accounts for about half the loan. In this item the most important feature is the provision of the water supply for Jerusalem. After years of baffling negotiation and weary waiting the concession which had been given by the Turkish government for bringing water to the waterless capital has come to nothing, and the government is now carrying out itself the provision of the public utility.

Simon Mayer Dalbert served in the Napoleonic army in both the cavalry and the infantry.

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