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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

In the north by the value of the ruble


The

key to profitable banking in Persia is the arbitration of foreign exchanges, which being so intimately connected with internal exchange allows the latter to be worked at a profit, advantage being taken of breaks in the level of prices; but of course, with the introduction of telegraphs and in future of railways, these profits will become more and more difficult to make. In Persia the lack of quick communication still affords a fair chance of good remuneration without speculation for the important services rendered by a bank to trade.

The exchange of Persia upon London is specially affected by two influences. In the north by the value of the ruble, the more important and constant factor, Tabriz, the Persian centre of the Russian exchange, being the nearest approach in Persia to a regular market; and in the south by the rupee exchange, which differs from the ruble in its being dependent upon the price of silver.

In a country like Persia, where the exchange is not always obtainable and money at times is not to be procured, it is easy to conceive the difficulty of a bank. Forecasts of movements, based on general causes, are of little or no value in Persia. To this must be added the difficulties of examining and counting coins--weighing is not practicable owing to the irregularity of each coin--of the transmission of funds to distant places, and the general ignorance except in mercantile circles--of banking methods

as we understand them.

The Imperial Bank is established in Persia, not as is believed by some persons to do business for England and English people, but to do business with everybody. "The spirit of free trade alone," said Mr. Rabino to me, "must animate the management of such a bank. Its services must be at the disposal of all; its impartiality to English, Russian, Austrian, Persian, or whatever nationality a customer may belong to, unquestioned. All must have a fair and generous treatment." The interests of the Imperial Bank are firstly those of its shareholders, secondly those of Persia which gives the Bank hospitality.

The Bank has already rendered inestimable services to Persia by diffusing sound business principles, which the Persians seem slowly but gladly to learn and accept. That the future of a bank on such true principles is bound to be crowned with success seems a certainty, but as has often been pointed out, it would be idle to fancy that a couple of years or three will remove the prejudices and peculiar ways of thinking and of transacting business of an Oriental race, whose civilisation is so different from ours, or that the natives will accept our financial system with its exactitude and punctuality, the result of ages of experience, unhesitatingly and immediately.

The Persian requires very careful handling. He is obstinate, and by mere long, tedious, passive resistance will often get the better in a bargain. By the employment of similar methods however, it is not difficult to obtain one's way in the end. A good deal of patience is required and time _ad libitum_, that is all.

There is no need for a large stock of gold and rubles, but what is mostly wanted is a greater number of men who might be sent all over the country, men with good business heads and a polite manner, and, above all, men well suited to the present requirements of the country.

The Russian, we find,--contrary to our popular ideas, which ever depict him knut in hand,--almost fraternises with the Asiatics, and in any case treats them with due consideration as if they had a right to live, at least in their own country. Hence his undoubted popularity. But we, the quintessence of Christianity and charity towards our neighbours, habitually treat natives with much needless harshness and reserve, which far from impressing the natives with our dignity--as we think--renders us ridiculous in their eyes. A number of younger Englishmen are beginning to be alive to this fact, and instruction on this point should form part of the commercial training of our youths whose lives are to be spent in the East.


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