What dim-witted people J. F. Duncan must take us tO be— and what an odd commercial practice he ascribes to the Czechs (and, presumably, other East European countries). Of course, the fault lies in his source material. To rely upon a book written by a professional anti-communist is.as wise as forming an opinion on democracy by a prolonged study of ” Mein Kampf.”
The example quoted—that of Czech exports to Egypt—is particularly absurd. Disruption of the hone market indeed! Since when has Egypt been a country which Could be ” disrUpted ” by competition in the home market for ears and motorcycles., of all things! Presumably, Mr. Duncan means disruption of the home mar-wry; if so, the existence of an Egyptian motor industry will lie news to most of us!
Though the situation is a complicated one—the existence of trade or foreign aid agreements; the balance of trade; and the rate of exchange all have a bearing on it—the facts are these. Taking Mr. Duncan’s own figures, a Skoda car sells in Egypt for less than £400; a Jawa motorcycle for some Lzio. These figures seem to tie in well with the probable cost of production, plus a commercial profit for the State sales agency. In Britain, for instance, the Skoda’s basic price is /,’,431—a figure which includes an import duty of roughly one-third of the landed price. The Jawa Senior motorcycle has a basic price of roughly X:150,. again including import duty. The figures for Britain and Egypt are thus consistent. From figures published in MolaiR Sgokr, we know that the price of the Skoda in West Germany is £450; by comparison, the Austin 85o sells for £480. In Switzerland, the Skoda sells for £57o; the Austin for £600. In Italy—with Western Europe’s biggest Communist Party !the Skoda costs £525 and the Austin Se7en £585. Sp, again. the price at which the Skoda is sold is consistent With the existence of a more or less standard export price set by the manufacturer, and varying only by reason of the normal commercial fluctuations Which are common to all international trade.
And this, indeed, is confirmed by the experience of businessmen (I have spoken to many of them personally) who have had trade dealings with the Soviets. Their unanimous opinion was that the communist countries do nor undercut, 3S a matter of course; that they always try to obtain an economic price for their goods; and that having made a bargain they stick to it scrupulously.
Of course, if one happened to be a Czech (and if the figures given by Mr. Duncan are accurate) one could feel aggrieved that the prices to home consumers are so high. On the other hand, this is not peculiar to Eastern Europe; there was a time when British governments found it necessary to impose taxes of a hundred per cent. on the sales of a wide range of goods, and many of us might well feel that the tax on cars here is hardly a light one. . . .
It may well be that the Czech fiscal system, in any case, is similar to the Russian, in which the major tax burden is placed not on income, but on expenditure. If less than four per cent. of my income was taxed I might, perhaps; not object quite so strongly to a heavy purchase tax.
Oh, and on this strike business … Wily do so-many people go out of their way to defame the British record of labour relations ? They are still amongst the best in the world. If yon look into the figures you will find that strikes cost, on average, one hour per worker per year. We could save three times as many working days if we cured the common cold. And for those who prefer statistics, at the present time days lost through strikes amount to roughly o.t per cent. of working time. Hardly disastrous, is it ?
Crawley Down. joins; TI-toam:. P.S.—Try the raspberry jam sold by Globus, of Budapest. You may find it superior to the Rumanian brand.