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FRIDAY, APRIL 18,1902.


FRIDAY, APRIL 18,1902. THE BUDGET. Generally speaking, the new Budget pro- posals, or at least those that are regarded as affecting the "staff of life," have not been I received with open arms throughout the country. Perhaps the London "Daily Mail sums up the situation the most accu- rately, when it says that Sir Michael Hicks- Beach's financial proposals will be regarded by the community with tolerance, but with- out enthusiasm." Everybody feels within him that the costly war in which we are en- gaged in South Africa has to be paid for. We must see the thing through, as Lord Rose- bery recently said, and to do it necessarily means drawing upon our National Ex- chequer, in one way or another. Whatever may be said of the fiscal policy of the I Government, as disclosed by the last two Budgets, it is palpable, especially in regard to that submitted on Monday night, that the greatest desire ia evinced to spread the cost of the war, so far as possible, equally over all sections of the community, with, at the same time, the least possible disturbance of the general trade of the country. The Chan- cellor of the Exchequer has endeavoured to do this, in his present financial statement, by imposing an additional burden upon I Income Taxpayers, increasing the Stamp Duty, Md, i° effect, asking the masses to contribute their quota by paying a little more for the bread they eat. The proposed impost on imported corn, grain, flour, and meal, is not a very large one. Indeed, it is said the only surprise expressed in the corn and Hoar trade ia on this account, for the impost in the case of flour, reckoning a pro- portion of 26 per cent. for home produce, is about 9d. per sack, or approximately one- third of one farthing per 4 lb. loaf. Having regard to the fluctuation in the price of flour which oftentimes reaches a much higher figure than 9d. per aack, it is confidently asserted by some people, that the price of bread will not be affected by the new duty. For our- selves, we can only say that we believe that the consumer will, in the long run, have to bear this burden, as he invariably has to do with all such burdens, notwithstanding Sir Michael Hicks-Beach's definitely-stated opinion to the contrary. Though the prin- ciple of greater elasticity in regard to the British fiscal policy was introduced last year when taxes were placed on coal and sugar, yet there is something in the nature of a new and important departure by the proposed duty on imported wheat, when we reflect upon the number of years that have elapsed since the memorable Corn Law Agitation brought about the abolition, in the main, uf all such corn duties. Times, however, have much changed since the days of Cobden and Bright, and, it may be, notwithstanding that, as one London journal puts it, "our Government have now departed from the strait and narrow path, and have plunged into the broad and dark road of Protection," the incidence of such a tax will not fall anything like so heavily upon the shoulders of the masses as it did years ago. At any- rate, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach made a deci- dedly strong point when he urged that pre- cisely similar duties as now proposed in regard to cereals were in vogue for years after Sir Robert Peel's famous measure was passed into law. In other words, that down to the sixties corn duties were imposed, as now suggested, without their being regarded as in the least protective. Fur ourselves, however, we feel that the nation's commer- cial prosperity has grown up alongside of Free Trade, aud on that ground it may be very unwise if the new corn duties are in- tended as the first step towards a complete setting aside of that great principle of com- merce. Regarding the increased stamp duty little need be said, except that it is evidently intended to be a permanent one, otherwise the disturbance that will be caused to the banking business of the country would not be worth the small increase to the national revenue that is expected from this source.





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