Mr. Bingham to Mr. Evarts.
Tokei, Japan, July 24, 1879. (Received September 1.)
Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith for your information the report of his excellency Mr. Okuma, his Imperial Japanese Majesty’s minister of finance, of the estimated receipts and expenditures of this government for the current fiscal year, ending the 30th of June, 1880.
The minister in his letter transmitting his elaborate and most creditable report to his excellency Mr. Sanjo, the prime minister, remarks that as “the country is now in a condition of peace and tranquility” he esteems this to be an “opportune time” to gradually establish the system of national finance upon a satisfactory basis.
The report estimates the expenditures of the current fiscal at yen 55,651,379.03, and the estimated revenues for the year at precisely the same amount. The minister is manifestly unwilling to estimate for yearly expenditure beyond the estimated yearly income of the state.
As before reported in these dispatches of the revenues of the last fiscal year, the chief source of revenue in Japan for the current fiscal year is the land tax, which, it is estimated, will furnish yen 41,000,950 of the entire sum of yen 55,651,379.03; that is to say, more than two-thirds of the entire amount of the national revenue for the year.
In the items estimated for miscellaneous expenditure is the sum of yen 1,200,000, in which is included the subsidy to the “famine relief fund.” This provision for a relief fund against famine is as novel as it is wise and humane. You will notice that the finance minister in his report, speaking of this new provision, says that—
The reasons why the people fall into distress are that there exists no scheme to enable them to provide a reserve for bad years, but only one which makes them pay double after calamities have passed, * * * and they have had no opportunity yet of judging of the high importance and advantage of a public or union reserve fund. Such a system has therefore been matured this year for the purpose of stimulating the establishment of public funds to meet possible calamities. By this means only the successful relief of distressed peasants can be provided for. In order to encourage the public to respect the measure, the government has come to the resolution to economize as much as possible their own expenditure, so as to give their aid to this fund by providing three per cent, of the annual land tax, or 1,200,000 yen yearly.
Such administration as is herein indicated by the finance minister accords with our American theory that civil governments are instituted to secure to the governed their rights and to promote their interests.
It is further to be noted that the report shows a decrease of the paper circulation from last year of yen 7,499,217, and of the national debt, domestic and foreign, there has been a reduction in gross of yen 21,200,280.68.[Page 657]
The total domestic and foreign debt of the nation is yen 363,227,974; the foreign debt amounting in yen to but 11,829,120.
I have, &c.,