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'File 8/15 Arab Series - 1933-1939' [‎33v] (66/434)

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The record is made up of 1 file (214 folios). It was created in 31 Aug 1933-20 Mar 1939. It was written in English and French. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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manner. This reduces the total of their purchasing power and with it that of
the shopkeepers and other classes of Hejazi who live by them.
4. The decline in customs receipts cannot be measured, for no statistics are
available, but must be considerable. The decreased number of pilgrims, the
uncertainty of future numbers, the decline in the purchasing power of the
people, the excessive increase of customs dues last May (see Jedda despatch
No. 154) and the heavy stocks still held by local merchants as a legacy from the
last eighteen months, have all contributed to the reduction of imports. Figures
contributed privately by the Director of Customs are remarkable ; during the
first eight months of the current Arabic year (April to November 1933) the
number of packages imported through Jedda was 9,847, as compared with 48,735
during a similar period last year. *
5. Customs receipts are in any case heavily mortgaged by the system of
drafts which the Saudi Government have adopted to an increasing extent in the
last two years as a means of satisfying creditors without paying them. Fuad
Bey Hamza told me on the _lst December that no such drafts had been issued
since the beginning of the current Arabic year. My information suggests that
this statement is not entirely accurate, and that certain favoured creditors,
notably the importing firm mentioned in paragraph 2, have, in effect, received
such drafts ; and that, moreover, these new drafts are “ 100 per cent.” ones,
i.e., allowing the importer to admit goods free of all duty until the amount of
the draft is paid off, instead of the “ 25 per cent.” once formerly issued which
merely entitle him to write-off one-quarter of the amount of duty on each
consignment while paying the remaining three-quarters in cash. In any case,
the total of the drafts issued previous to this Arabic yegr and still unredeemed
must be very large. The Soviets are stated to hold such drafts in respect of
their 1931, importation of kerosene and benzine, but to be holding them, until
such time as they can import with less certainty of loss.
6. All Government revenue is collected—one might say snatched—at the
earliest moment and remitted to Riyadh. Forced loans on merchants, which
were such a feature of the autumn of 1931, have not been in evidence, principally
because of the lack of merchants rich enough to afford them, though this method
was recently resorted to to pay Mr. Philby for a consignment of tyres. A
tendency to impose new taxes, for example, on motor launches and on water-
carts, is, however, noticeable.
7. Meantime other Government expenditure is cut down to the barest
minimum. Official salaries are even more in arrear than usual ; for many months
employees were being paid on the principle “ one-third cash, one-third kind,
one-third carried forward,” but even this now been modified 1 to “ all carried.”
Bribing is consequently even easier, cheaper and more prevalent than before.
Money is refused for all kinds of necessary and even profitable expenditure ; the
condenser engineer laments the lack of essential spares, and the piping necessary
to supply Jedda with good water is not forthcoming. Even contingency
allowances for Government offices have of late been held up. Redemption of
debt, in such an atmosphere, seems the height of improbability.
8. The currency position reflects the general situation : the Saudi rial,
which a year ago stood at 184 to the £ gold and two years ago at 174, is now
fluctuating round 26. The value of its silver content is understood to be about
30 and, while at the moment it is showing a slight tendency to rise, as it does
each year before the pilgrimage on account of the demand for it created by the
arrival of pilgrims, the general opinion is that, after the pilgrimage, it will
depreciate to nearly 30.
9. Despite the catalogue of depression in the preceding paragraphs, there
is some reason to believe that the regime is in reality far from bankrupt and
that its protestations of poverty are the result of Semitic cupidity and dislike
of disbursement, far more than of actual lack of money. The Minister of
Finance has been noticed to be far less worried than he might be expected to be
and the Roval Familv still seem able to afford luxurv cars. The money, however,
it is agreed, is not, in the Heiaz, but where it has been remitted so steadily and
so long by the faithful Minister of Finance—Riyadh.
10. T am sending a copv of this despatch to the Principal Secretary of State
for Foreign Affairs, Department of Overseas Trade.

About this item


The file contains the Foreign Office confidential prints of the Arabia Series for the years 1933 to 1938. It includes correspondence, memoranda, and extracts from newspapers. The correspondence is principally between the British Legation in Jedda and the Foreign Office. Other correspondents include British diplomatic, political, and military offices, foreign diplomats, heads of state, tribal leaders, corporations, and individuals in the Middle East region.

Each annual series is composed of several numbered serials that are often connected to a particular subject. The file covers many subjects related to the affairs of Saudi Arabia.

Included in the file are the following:

  • a memorandum on Arab Unity produced by the Foreign Office dated 12 June 1933 (author unknown), folios 11-13;
  • a memorandum on petroleum in Arabia produced by the Petroleum Department dated 5 August 1933 (author unknown), folios 23-26;
  • a record of interviews with Ibn Sa‘ūd, King of Saudi Arabia, conducted by Reader Bullard and George William Rendel between 20 and 22 March 1937;
  • a memorandum on Yemen by Captain B W Seager, the Frontier Officer, dated 20 July 1937;
  • several records of proceedings of ships on patrol in the Red Sea, including that of HMS Penzance , Hastings , Colombo , Bideford , and Londonderry .

Folios 213-15 are internal office notes.

Extent and format
1 file (214 folios)

The file is arranged chronologically.

Physical characteristics

Foliation: the main foliation sequence (used for referencing) commences at the front cover with 1 and terminates at the back cover with 217; these numbers are written in pencil, are circled, and are located in the top right corner of the recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. side of each folio. An additional foliation sequence is also present in parallel between ff 2-215; these numbers are also written in pencil, but are not circled, and are located in the same position as the main sequence.

Written in
English and French in Latin script
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'File 8/15 Arab Series - 1933-1939' [‎33v] (66/434), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/R/15/2/310, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 17 February 2020]

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