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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Which had the greatest stock of money in Teheran


Imperial Bank of Persia, being a purely British enterprise, is the most interesting to us. Its main offices are in a most impressive building in the principal square of Teheran, and it has branch offices at Tabriz, Isfahan, Meshed, Yezd, Shiraz, in the Teheran Bazaar, at Bushire and Kermanshah. It would be useless to go into the various vicissitudes through which the Bank has passed since it was first started, and the difficulties which it encountered in meeting the unusual ways of doing business of Persians and satisfying the desires of directors and shareholders in simple London town. One thing is, nevertheless, certain, and that is that if the Imperial Bank of Persia maintains the prestige now belonging to it, it owes this to Mr. Rabino, of Egyptian fame, the Manager of the Bank,--without exception the most revered foreigner in Persia.

I will not touch on the sore question of the Persian loans, eventually secured by Russia, but, curiously enough, the capital of the first loan, at least, was in great measure practically transferred from Russia to Persia by the Imperial Bank, which had the greatest stock of money in Teheran; nor shall I go into the successful and unsuccessful ventures of the Bank, such as the Road Concession, and the Mining Corporation. As to the road concession, it is beyond doubt that had the Bank not become alarmed, and had they held on a little longer, the venture might have eventually paid, and paid well. But naturally,

in a slow country like Persia, nothing can be a financial success unless it is given time to develop properly.

With regard to its relation with the Banque d'Escompte et de Prets, the Russian Bank--believed by some to be a dangerous rival--matters may to my mind be seen in two aspects. I believe that the Russian Bank, far from damaging the Imperial Bank, has really been a godsend to it, as it has relieved it by sharing advances to the Government which in time might have proved somewhat of a burden on one establishment. It is a mistake, too, to believe that in a country like Persia there is not room for two large concerns like the two above-mentioned Banks, and that one or the other is bound to go.

The rumoured enormous successes of the Russian Bank and its really fast-increasing prestige are indisputable, but the secret of these things is well known to the local management of the Imperial Bank, which could easily follow suit and quickly surpass the Russians if more official and political support were forthcoming.

The action of the London Stock Exchange in depreciating everything Persian, for the sake of reprisal, is also injurious to the Bank, and more so to the prestige of this country, though we do not seem to see that our attitude has done much more harm to ourselves than to the Persians. It is true that Persia is a maladministered country, that there is corruption, that there is intrigue, and so forth, but is there any other country, may I ask, where to a greater or smaller extent the same accusation could not be made? Nor can we get away from the fact that although Persia has been discredited on the London market it is one of the few countries in which the national debt is extremely small and can easily be met.

The obligations of the Imperial Government and of Muzaffer-ed-din Shah's signature, have never failed to be met, nor has the payment of full interest on mortgages contracted ever been withheld. Delays may have occurred, but everything has come right in the end. Our absurd attitude towards the Persians, when we are at the same time ready to back up enterprises that certainly do not afford one-tenth of the security to be found in Persia, is therefore rather difficult to understand.

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