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CHAOS IN AUSTRIA, Issue 15667, 4 December 1914
CHAOS IN AUSTRIA
INDUSTRY AT STANDSTILL. GOVERNMENT'S FINANCIAL SCHEMES. Austria-Hungary's industry and commerce have been brought to a, sudden standstill by the war (writes Reuter's agent in Vienna). Exports have ceased, manufactories, with few exceptions, are shut down, and merchants and shopkeepers are without customers. The army has absorbed the great majority of the workers, and of the remainder many thousands have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Agricultural interests are in a somewhat better position, with prices o£ corn and cattle steadily advancing, and although the rqajority of tho farm laborers have been called to the war, the harvest for the most part has been gathered in before they left. But the landed proprietors and peasant farmers are now confronted with the difficulty of finding labor for the autumn field work and sowing, which cannot all bo done by the women and the few old men who are left at home alone. Finding the moratorium insufficient to protect the business and financial interests of the Monarchy, the Government has been forced to resort to other expedients to prevent the wholesale collapse of tho industrial and mercantile fabric. War credit banks and loan institutions have been founded to finance necessitous business firms, and a system of official supervision of insolvent concerns has been organised to prevent, an overwhelming number of bankruptcies. The first of the war credit banks has been opened in Vienna with a capital of 6,000,000 crowns (a quarter of a million sterling) in shares of 1,000 crowns. The capital may be doubled later. Dividends are limited to 4 per cent., and any surplus will be devoted to patriotic purposes. The City Council and the Vienna Chamber of Commerce each guaranteed one-third of the capital, but the Vienna banks bare already subscribed for one-half. The special object of this bank ia to lend money to manufacturers and traders to enable them to meet current obligations in acceptances falling due, and other commercial paper, and its operations are limited to Vienna and Lower Austria. For smaller manufacturers and the middle _ class of .merchants and traders a chain of loan institutions is being organised under the administration of the Aus-tro-li'ungarian Bank and supsrvised bv the Ministry of Finance. In cases where a business house is temporarily insolvent, a special provisional system of oilicial supervieion ha.s been organised, to remain in effect during the war, for the purpose of enabling the business to be carried on. On the application of either a dubtor or creditor, the Courts are authorised to appoint experts, as guardians or trustees, to supervise the carrying on of the business in the general interests of the creditors, so as to prevent the unnecessary losses attendant upon bankruptcy. These experts will have absolute control of the finances and general conduct of the business, and may allow the owner a moderate sum for his private living.
Just how far all these elaborate, arrangements will be successful remains to be seen, but there is no doubt as to the urgent necessity for some such action. The greatest commercial interests in the country have already been appealing for souno kind of ..State aid. The sugar refiners arc especially affected, and if is anticipated that nearly one-half of the issue of the loan banks will be taken up by them. They have lost their best foreign customers. Great Britain and India, for the time, and will find it very difficult to dispose of their enormous stocks suddenly left, on their hands. In ordinary times the Monarchy consumes only from one-third to two-sii'ths of its total sugar production, the remainder is all exported. And now the only regular traffic open is to .Switzerland, which takes generally from Austria between 50,000 and 80,000 tons of sugar yearly, out of a total production of 1,200,000 tons. The question of providing storage room aione for this enormous surplus is causing the refiners immense trouble.
They are experiencing great difficulties, too, in manufacturing the present season's crop of beetroot, owing tu the scarcity of -skilled labor. There" 1 s-o plenty of ordinary labor available, but the expert workmen have nearly all boon called to the front and cannot* bo replaced at short notice.
The great, textile and ciothinz industries of Moravia and Bohemia are in no better uituation, and their representatives have been holding protest meetings already, denouncing the illegal mwuro.s adopted in England and Franco a-gaimt Austrian and German tr;>d.>. They advocate a boycott of all British and' French goods, but it is not likely that their efforts will have any success.
Viennese shopkeepers who expected at first that there would bo no more demand for English table delicacies and French perfumeries found themselves gaca-tly mistaken. Their ar.stccratic customers came and quietly bought up large stocks of these goods, itaiiug they nughtj not be able to get any more for some time. BesidctN th-e "f,ug.ir r:-fiiK?rs, to whom the loss of t.he English maikeb would mean almost ruin, tlitre are oilier largo commercial inteieats ni Au.s'ria wh.en realise the unwisdom of txciting needless hostility abroad. They recognise that a. boycott of the products* of hostile, countries at this time can do no u'ood, ;.nd iater will almost certainly prow to have done incalculable harm, and so they will take no part in it. Viciine.-e shopkeepers have be-jn removing English and. French words from their signboards, but it is noticeable that in moet instances they have not made the change- in a very permanent manner, frequently only pasting thick brown paper over the offending voids. And this does not imply that their English and French goods are. not to be bought inside jufit as t'SUP.I.
Meantime tho Germans profess to be confident that Cheat Britain will not be able to capture their foidgn trade at all. In a recent Vienna papar an anonymous Berlin writer declared*' that the war would t=trcntrthen Germany's po-sit-'on in the markets of the world. * Great Biitain's worldcommercial power, he wiote, will be broken by the German Empire. Germany's export trade may be temporarily paralysed.' but Great Britain, in losing Iter bo:-t customer, is as severely injured. Tlui German merchant has truly no reason to fear England's war measures. Germany's position is not only assured by its finances, but by its oertain possession of foreign customers.
CHAOS IN AUSTRIA, Issue 15667, 4 December 1914
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