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$400,000,000, as is now claimed, the annual revenue needed will be approximately $20,000,000. Will the income of the Panama Canal exceed this amount if conducted as a business enterprise?
The above-mentioned report states:
“The investigation of the traffic available for the use of the canal led to the conclusion that about 10,500,000 tons net register of shipping will pass through the canal during the early years of its operation. The rate at which the Suez Canal tonnage and the commerce of the world is increasing indicates that an increase of at least sixty per cent in the traffic of the Panama Canal may be expected during the decade 1915–25. It is thus probable that there will be 17,000,000 tons of shipping using the canal during 1925. An increase of sixty per cent during the second decade of the canal's operation would bring the traffic up to 27,000,000 net register tons at the end of twenty years. The estimates are believed to be conservative. If the traffic of the Panama Canal shall be equal to these estimates, it will be possible to secure from moderate tolls enough revenues to enable the canal to be commercially self-supporting.”
It is thus evident that the income from the Panama Canal will be sufficient to make it commercially selfsupporting if it is managed as a business enterprise by competent officials.
The foregoing is germane only if the canal can be made commercially self-supporting. The history of the Suez Canal will throw light on the subject, and the Isthmian Canal Commission report will give us the
best information available. The text of this report was written by Emory R. Johnson-one of the greatest transportation experts.
The Suez Maritime Canal Company is the owner and operator of this canal. Its cost of construction was about $125,000,000 to 1912.
Condensed income statement for 1911:
· Net operating income
This amount ($24,900,000) was available for reserves, interest and dividends--and note that the investment was only about $125,000,000.
The United States needs about $20,000,000 a year for a period of say twenty-five years to conduct the canal as a business enterprise. This will make a total of $500,000,000 for the period. It is believed that the revenue during the first year will be about $10,000,000 and that it need not be less than $30,000,000 the twenty-fifth year. That would be an average annual income of $20,000,000, or the total of $500,000,000 for the period.
Now, grant free transportation to our coastwise traffic and what happens? The amount of income needed for the period is still $500,000,000. If the average yearly revenue from coastwise traffic would have been $4,000,000, the total would be $100,000,000. Other users would have to pay this amount in a higher rate. The resulting rate would not be just and equitable and would be established
in violation of the Hay-Pauncefote treaty. This is the claim of Great Britain. The claim is sustained.
The United States needs about $20,000,000 a year in revenue from the Panama Canal to cover interest, all operating charges, the annuity to Panama and a sinking fund charge of $4,000,000. Only $20,000,000 a year is needed to conduct it as a business enterprise. The income of the Suez Canal is now considerably in excess of this amount. The revenues of the Panama Canal will exceed the present income of the Suez Maritime Canal Company in twenty years, if conducted on business principles.
It seems to be the adopted policy of the United States to make the canal commercially self-supporting and to extinguish its liability therefor by an amortization charge to revenue. Business prudence and political wisdom demand that it shall be made commercially self-supporting, provided revenues large enough to enable the canal to carry itself can be secured without unwisely restricting traffic. Expert opinion is to the effect that this can be done.
Ex-President Taft has clearly stated the policy that the United States should pursue in managing the canal; namely:
“I believe that the cost of such a Government work as the Panama Canal ought to be imposed gradually but certainly upon the trade which it creates and makes possible. So far as we can, consistent with the development of the world's trade through the canal and the benefit which it is intended to secure to the east and west coastwise trade, we ought to labor to secure from the canal
tolls a sufficient amount ultimately to meet the debt which we have assumed, and to pay the interest."
The Panama Canal act is in harmony therewith. It merely needs good management and up-to-date accounting.
In the fixing of tolls, the President is vested with some discretion. A maximum and a minimum rate are fixed for foreign commerce using the canal. The amount imposed on the traffic must cover carrying charges, as that is understood in modern business, as soon as it can be done without exceeding the maximum rate fixed by the canal act. The Panama Canal act is thus in harmony with the foregoing view expressed by ex-President Taft.
The policy that the United States should adopt in the management of the Panama Canal is expressed as follows by Professor Johnson:
“The United States should adhere to business principles in the management of the Panama Canal. The Government needs to guard its revenues carefully. Present demands on the general budget are heavy and are certain to be larger. Taxes must necessarily increase. Those who directly benefit from using the canal, rather than the general tax payers, ought to pay the expenses of operating and carrying the Panama Canal commercially."
The following statement by Professor Johnson is now apropos:
"In considering the effect of exempting the coastwise shipowners from toll payments it is possibly well to bear in mind that the charges that have been fixed by the President for the use of the canal-one dollar and
twenty cents for each one hundred cubic feet of the earning capacity of vessels, with a reduction of forty per cent in the rate for vessels without passengers or cargo-are not the highest rates that might have been imposed without restricting traffic, nor are the rates such that higher charges would have lessened the revenues from the canal. The tolls are neither all the traffic would bear, nor have they been fixed with a view to securing maximum possible revenues.
"It is obvious that with a given rate of tolls the canal revenues will be larger if all vessels using the canal are charged tolls, and will be smaller if any class of vessels, as the American coastwise shipping, is exempted from the charges.
"It is likewise self-evident that if it be desired to secure an income of a definite amount, as, for example, revenues that will cover outlays for operation, maintenance, interest and amortization-revenues that will make the canal commercially self-supporting—the rate of tolls must be increased proportionately with any reduction of the tonnage resulting from the exemption of any class or classes of shipping from the payment of the charges.
“These statements are, of course, mere truisms. There will be nothing new or unusual about the Panama Canal finances. If the canal does not support itself, the taxpayers must support it. The amount required to meet the current expenses and capital costs of the canal can be derived only from the tolls paid by those who use the waterway or from taxes paid by the public who own the canal; and, as regards the income from tolls, the sum received must be affected both by the rate of charges