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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

And savings transformed into capital


A

model farm was actually started (and is still in existence) near Shah-Abdul Azim, where beetroot was to be grown in large quantities, the experts declaring that the soil was better suited for the crop than any to be found in Europe. Somehow or other it did not answer as well as expected. Moreover, the question of providing coal for the engines proved--as in the case of the Gas Company--to be another serious stumbling block. An attempt to overcome this difficulty by joining with the Gas Company in working the Lalun Mines was made, but, alas! proved an expensive failure.

Moreover, further difficulties were encountered in obtaining the right manure for the beetroots, in order that the acids, which delay crystallisation, might be eliminated; and the inexperience, carelessness and reluctance with which the natives took up the new cultivation--and, as it did not pay, eventually declined to go on with it--render it by no means strange that the sugar factory, too, which was to make the fortunes of so many became a derelict enterprise.

CHAPTER XIII

Cash and wealth--Capital as understood by Persians--Hidden fortunes--Forms of extravagance--Unbusiness-like qualities--Foreign examples--Shaken confidence of natives in foreigners--Greed for money--Small merchants--Illicit ways of increasing wealth--The Persian a dreamer--Unpunctuality--Time

no money and no object--Hindrance to reform--Currency--Gold, silver, and copper--Absorption of silver--Drainage of silver into Transcaspia--Banknotes--The fluctuations of the Kran--How the poorer classes are affected by it--Coins old and new--Nickel coins--The _Shai_ and its subdivisions.

The Persian does not understand the sound principles on which alone extensive business can be successful. Partly owing to prevailing circumstances he is under the misapprehension that hard cash is synonymous with wealth, and does not differentiate between treasure, savings, and savings transformed into capital. This is probably the main cause of the present anaemic state of business in the Shah's Empire. Thus, when we are told there is in Persia enormous "capital" to be invested, we are not correctly informed. There are "enormous accumulations of wealth" lying idle, but there is no "capital" in the true meaning of the word. These huge sums in hard cash, in jewellery, or bars of gold and silver, have been hidden for centuries in dark cellars, and for any good they are to the country and commerce at large might as well not exist at all.

Partly owing to the covetousness of his neighbours, partly owing to a racial and not unreasonable diffidence of all around him, and to the fact that an Asiatic always feels great satisfaction in the knowledge that he has all his wealth within his own reach and protection, rich men of Persia take particular care to maintain the strictest secrecy about their possessions, and to conceal from the view of their neighbours any signs which might lead them to suspect the accumulation of any such wealth. We have already seen how even the houses of the wealthiest are purposely made humble outwardly so as to escape the notice of rapacious officials, and it is indeed difficult to distinguish from the outside between the house of a millionaire and that of a common merchant.


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