A LETTER FROM BUCHAREST
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR,--The weather in Rumania, as in all agricultural countries with an undeveloped industry, is a factor of paramount importance which has a direct and immediate bearing on he whole economic life of the country. A good crop means wealth to the peasant farmers, who form the bulk of the population, and easily collected revenue for the State. It also means brisk trade, large exports and an active trade balance. In spite of torrential rains, fortunately of a local character, and floods in the low-lying parts of several agri- cultural districts, Rumania will have this year a good wheat crop and an abundant maize production. It is estimated that after deducting the quantity necessary for home con- sumption and seed for the next crop, the exportable surplus, including the quantity left from last year, will exceed 1,000,000 tons of wheat. The potential agricultural resources of Rumania are not yet fully realized. Experts claim that when scientific methods are generally applied, the present grain production may easily be doubled, if not trebled. The agrarian reform which pulverized the large estates has undoubtedly retarded the development of agriculture, and until the inexperienced peasant farmer has been taught and given the means to cultivate his land intensively no improvement of the present situation can be expected.
How this large crop is to be moved to the seaboard with the woefully inadequate means of transport now available is a problem which the State Railways Administration will have to solve in the immediate future if there are to be any exports of any importance this year: Efforts are _being made to mobilize all available rolling-stock and repair the vast number of engines and freight cars which arq lying in a dilapidated condition. Furthermore, an E orangement is under contemplation to borrow a number of locomotives from Czechoslovakia and Poland for the export period.
These, however, are mere palliatives meant to bridge over a temporary difficult situation. The transport problem, which is the key to the whole economic life of the country, will have to be tackled sooner or later in its entirety, and it is a foregone conclusion that this can only be done with capital from outside. It is calculated that no less' than £25,000,000 is required to put the railways in 'a normal running condition.
Tie change of Government at the beginning of April did not:bring any marked departure from the past GOvernirent's
domestic policy. As a matter of fact it was on this condition that Mr. Jon Bratianu, the former Premier, lent his suppoit to General Averescu and influenced the King'i choice of a
successor to the Liberal Government who resigned after four years of office at the end of March. A Nationalist-Tsaranist (Peasant Party) coalition Government, the only alternative to a Government headed by General Averescu, would have spelt ruin to Mr. Vintila Bratianu's economic policy and the interests of the Liberal financial institutions, and would have endangered Mr. Jon Bratianu'S cherished plan of arriving eventually at the two-party system which used to govern pre-War Rumania. The general elections held in May proved once more that the country always votes with the Government in power. The electors were controlled with old-time energy, with the result that General Averescu's political organization (People's Party), who only had seven representatives in the last Parliament, obtained an overwhelming majority in the Chamber and all the eligible seats in the Senate. About forty seats in the Upper- House are allotted to 'Senators by right, who are nearly all members of the Liberal Party. In this General Averescu was largely helped by the new electoral law, modelled on Signor Mussolini's decrees, which gives the Government an advantage, for if it obtains forty per cent. of the total votes cast the law would ensure a strong majority in the Chamber. A remarkable feature of the elections since the War was the indifference displayed by the town electorate towards the exercise of their citizens' rights. In Bucharest, for instance, only 21,000 votes were recorded from a popu- lation of close on one million. This apathetic spirit is to a certain extent explained by the violence of political struggle after the War and by the indifferent quality of-the candidates. The peasants generally vote to a man, but that is due mainly to the zeal of the electoral agents and the fear of the 500 Lei fine imposed on those electors who cannot show a reasonable excuse fok not voting. - There are signs that a conflict is about to break out between the Liberals and the Governnient over a controversy about the currency problem, which is developing into a political issue. Mr. Garoflid, Minister of Agriculture, and the exponent of the present Government's economic and financial policy, is advocating the idea of increasing the note circulation so as to enable the exporters to sell their foreign bills in order to finance the crop, and only in proportion to the necessities of the export trade. To do this, however, the convention concluded last year between the Government and the National Bank of
Rumania, which was embodied in a law passed through Par- liament, limiting the note issue to 21,000,000,000 Lei (about £21,000,000), will have to be modified, the limit prescribed by the convention having already been reached. As this convention, however, is the pivot of the Liberals' financial policy, the intention of the Government has met with a defi-
nite non possum-us on the part of the Liberals. The latter arc committed to a policy of revalorization, and the convention with the National Bank is part of the legislation passed by
them with that end in view. The Averescu Government, on the contrary, is in favour of stabilization as the only means of solving the currency problem and restoring normal economic) conditions. Parliament being now closed, the issue will pro- bably be fought in the autumn session.
Bucharest is by way of becoming. a modern city. In spite of the acute financial crisis which, with the exception of the ` profiteer" class, is affecting everybody, buildings are springing up everywhere. The new-University is an ;imposing building which, together with the massive stone edifice of the Sehool of Architecture and the proposed Town Hall, will border an attractive piazza in the middle of which stands the monument of Jon C. Bratianu, the late King Carol's trusted councillor and the creator of modern Rumania. The outlying suburbs, however, are in crying need of improvements. The rifunicipality are making laudable efforts to ameliorate the situation, but there. is no hope of achieving anything of im- portance until a Municipal...loan has been concluded.
The traffic problem is becoming acute, the narrow streets in the centre being totally inadequate to cope with the ever- increasing number of motor-cars. There are more than 4,000 cars in Bucharest, of which quite a number are of the most expensive American makes. It is calculated that Rumania spends 630,000 a day on the importation of American cars alone, besides the Italian, French, Austrian and British cars which are also imported in fairly large numbers. It is the poor population who suffer from the lack of means of locomotion.
The main feature of the theatrical season was a couple. of weeks' run of Joan of Arc, whichwas played simultaneously at the National Theatre with Mlle. Ventura, the Rumanian ,S'ocieaire of the Comedic Prancaise, in the title-role, and by the Pitoeff Company, of the Thedtre des Arts, who performed in French at the Teatrul Carol-cel-Mare. The Bucharest public, whose artistic taste is just as. refined as, and perhaps a trifle more pretentious than, the Parisians', had the rare opportunity of judging the comparative merits . of two of the best Con- tinental interpreters of Bernard Shaw. The Pitoeff Company have also produced with great success Pirandello's Six Personages.
We are now in the height of the holiday season. July and August are unbearably hot in the Capital, and the activity of the city is at a very low ebb until the middle of September. The seaside and mountain resorts are crowded to overflowing in . spite of the abnormally high prices. Constantza is, as usual, the great attraction, especially this year when, thanks to the efforts of the Municipal authorities, who are in great need of funds, gambling at the Casino has been resumed. There is a law prohibiting the games of chance in holiday resorts now in force, but this was interpreted as applying not to the town of Constantza but only to Constantza-plage, which- is situated about six miles from the town and where, incidentally, nobody lives. The holiday-makers stay in town and go to the plage by train for bathing. Sinaia,. the beautiful Royal summer residence, situated.on one of the finest sites of the Carpathians, four hours by train from Bucharest, is just as popular as Constantza. Except. for excursions on the rugged peaks of the mountains, where one often meets the same people one met at the Palace Hotel dance the previous evening, there is no attraction. There is a Casino, but the Roulette and Chemin-de-Fer were stopped two years ago, and the Municipal authorities have apparently not yet found a plausible excuse to circumvent the law, Sinaia being par excellence a holiday. resort. The sport lovers will find perhaps the finest golf course in Rumania a couple of miles from Sinaia. There are sites in the Transylvanian Alps which rival in beauty the finest Swiss mountain-scapes. Big game abounds, and there is excellent trout-fishing in practically all the mountain streams on both sides of the Carpathians. The Danube delta is a hunter's paradise, apart from the unique scenery that the vast expanse of water, covered in places with floating willow-tree forests, provides for the Nature lover. In addition to every known specimen of water birds living in this latitude, even pelicans and flamingoes are found, whilst cor- morants are met by the thousand. And if one is more pro- saically inclined, it is well to know that at Valcov in Southern Bessarabia, just where the Danube joins the Black Sea, the best caviare in the world is produced.—I am, Sir, &c., YOUR BUCHAREST CORRESPONDENT. July, 1926.