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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/166

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

its revenue product was £5,116,000 ($25,580,000—the Egyptian pound being about £1 0s. 6d.). In 1891 its product, after the large reductions noted, was £5,098,000 ($25,490,000); a result constituting a new and striking illustration of a little regarded principle of taxation, that low or moderate taxes are as a rule more prolific of revenue than comparatively high taxes. It is also worthy of note that the land taxes of Egypt under the reduced rates are collected with greater facility and much less expense than under the old system.

Viewed, as it should be, rather as a rent than as a tax, the present Egyptian tax on land can hardly be regarded as oppressive. The number of land proprietors in Egypt, according to the revenue returns for 1893, was 1,025,000. In only 8,569 cases were the fiscal officers obliged to seize crops in payment of the land tax. In three out of four of such cases the mere seizure acted as a sufficient threat to induce payment, and in only 2,158 cases was it necessary actually to sell the defaulters' crops. As for the seizure and forced sale of the land itself, there were only 1,865 cases of seizure and less than one in nine of actual sale—viz., 204. The number of expropriations for failure to pay the land tax had therefore been reduced to the infinitesimal proportion of one in five thousand.

The total revenue receipts of the Egyptian treasury during the year 1886, after the commission had begun to exert an influence on the fiscal affairs of the country, was £7,337,000. In 1890 they had increased to £8,040,000, and in 1891 to £8,366,000 ($41,830,000). To the extent of about one third, this augmentation was due to heavier taxes on tobacco, and a few new taxes, as a tax on house occupancy, from which all foreigners previous to 1887 were exempt. In general, the increase in revenue receipts consequent upon new taxes imposed since 1885 has been about £570,000; but the reductions of taxation have at the same time been notably in excess of this amount. The public debt of Egypt, which was nearly £99,000,000 in 1880, has been increased in recent years to the extent of between two and three millions; but this increase has been mainly devoted to the redemption of pensions and to reproductive public works.

The general results that have been attained in Egypt under the fiscal and administrative policy of the British commission are, therefore, worthy at least of being characterized as extraordinary. They can not, moreover, be properly exemplified by any mere exhibit of figures. The benefit that has accrued to the Egyptian people can not be properly measured by a reduction of their taxes, but rather by the increase in their means of bearing the burden that remains. "The greatest vice of all in their old system of government was that, while the demands made upon