« PreviousContinue »
was to be on a federal or a centralised basis. Federalism, we conceive, is impossible for the Tri-une Kingdom ; for the conditions prevalent in the two chief examples of federalism, viz. the United States of America and the former German Empire, do not exist in our case. In the United States, the federal system depends upon the centralisation of political parties; that condition is a long way from obtaining with us, for our parties have only just begun to combine. In the German Empire, on the other hand, political unity was assured by the predominance of Prussia. In our own case, the hegemony of the State would belong to Serbia, and neither Croats nor Slovenes would regard such hegemony with favour; even the Serbs themselves would probably be loth to accept it, at all events under present conditions. Moreover, in Germany, before the Empire was formed, many of the States comprising it were independent. In our case only Serbia and Montenegro were independent. Had Croatia and Slovenia been independent States, a federation between them and Serbia would have been natural; but they were not independent, and the remaining countries were still less so. Consequently a federation, with us, would be a very different thing from that of Germany or the United States.
A centralised system would have the advantage of conducing to the interests of the whole country and would tend to obliterate tribal divisions, but it would not be without disadvantages. In the first place, centralisation brings bureaucracy in its train, and bureaucracy is slow, cumbrous, often corrupt; moreover, it demands unusually good central institutions, and these to-day, especially under post-war conditions, are far from complete. Finally, a centralised system demands first-rate communications; but these are at present, and must for a long time be, the reverse of adequate. In this respect, some parts of the Kingdom are far worse off than others; and centralisation would not give that free play and initiative to provincial Governments which
The articles of the Constitution concerning this question show some compromise between the federal and centralised systems.
The Constitution, as now voted, is on the centralised Vol. 236.-No. 469.
said to exist. The communications are out of order, Il-arranged, and costly. The national credit is low, the ll rate of exchange unfavourable, international transport nadequate; and all the instruments of industry are destroyed or seriously insufficient. The question of compensation for losses incurred in the war has not been settled. Economic and financial relations within the country are still in confusion, and those with foreign countries are a long way from being restored.
The different provinces of the new State are, from the economic point of view, differently organised. Economically, they stand on different levels; and the total amount of war losses is very unequally divided. From the point of view of economic organisation, the districts which formerly belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire have an advantage over those that were independent; and this increases the difficulty of bringing: them into helpful relation with each other. After the Armistice there was a lack of currency, and prices rose to a great height, but not to the same level everywhere. Strange to say, in districts where there is plenty of corn it was twice as dear as in the non-productive areas. The assistance of the national credit was not given to the import trade, and merchants therefore adopted various means of buying stores abroad in order to sell them at very high prices. On the other hand, industrial undertakings such as iron-works, tanneries, cloth factories, factories of agricultural implements, etc., were unable to start work, for the State found it impossible, owing to the adverse exchange, to obtain for them the necessary raw products from abroad. In our treaties with other countries economic compensations were neglected, and we did not borrow from them, as we might have done, in the form of raw materials. The proceeds of agricultural products sold abroad were applied to the purchase of articles of luxury. We sold to Austria corn, meat, and other food products, getting in exchange depreciated Austrian kronen, which to the value of several milliards flooded the country, when instead we should have bought materials for our manufacturers.
In regard to communications there are in the Kingdom about 3000 kilometres of normal-gauge railways, and about the same amount of small-gauge; there are
also about 24,000 kilometres of good roads. The waterways, viz. the rivers Danube, Drave, Save, and Theiss, together with canals, are, of course, of great value; but all these means of communication, both by land and water, have got sadly out of order during the last six years. On the railways there is a great lack of locomotives as well as of carriages and trucks, while the staff leaves much to be desired, for many of the best officials were Hungarian or German. The important line between Belgrade and Salonica was destroyed by the enemy in his retreat, and is still only partially repaired. The waterways are for the most part not
. open for the whole year; and the geographical course of the rivers is not such as to make them convenient for domestic trade.
On account of the quarrel with Italy one great means of communication with Europe, the Adriatic, was cut off for two years. We have no access to good harbours on that sea, except at Fiume; but the question of harbours is still unsettled. In other ways, too, the political changes made by the Peace increased the difficulties of foreign trade, for the new States have set up tariff frontiers which formerly did not exist. Vienna and Buda-Pesth, which were formerly great centres of trade, are no longer markets of importance. Fresh centres will have to be created, and our trade must accommodate itself to novel conditions-a process necessarily slow.
The unfavourable condition of the Exchanges is not justified by the economic potentialities of the country, Even now, we
can export 208,000 waggon-loads of cereals. We have 7,357,000 hectares of forest, mainly beech and oak. We can export stock to the value of 10,000,0001. ; we can extract annually about 1,500,000 tons of coal of varying quality, with 60,000 tons of iron ore and 15,000 tons of copper. A country which poš sesses such means of wealth ought not to have a poor credit abroad or so unfavourable an exchange as obtain at present. The cause of this is probably the unsettled conditions both internal and external, but the possession of articles necessary to the world should remedy this disadvantage in the course of time. We are also heavils in debt; to England alone we owe, in the form of a War Loan, 22,500,0001. It would be difficult if not impossible