The Estates' Plans for Economic Reform

The measures adopted by the Treasury fell far short of a comprehensive economic policy. The discriminative customs decree issued by Vienna in 1754–55 affected Transylvania as well, notably by raising the duty on cattle and wax exports, but it did not represent a comprehensive plan for the country's economy. As in earlier decades, the estates had to fill the gap, and this time they developed plans that, at least in their original form, were far better conceived than that of Gergely Sándor.

The first and foremost plan was elaborated in spring 1751 by a parliamentary committee headed by László Teleki and including Samuel Dobosi, a wealthy merchant from Szeben. Inspired by a {2-597.} need to boost the money supply, the Teleki–Dobosi plan turned out to be a comprehensive program of economic reform. It proposed to boost population numbers through immigration; to import breed stock, improve animal husbandry (notably by stabling), and fatten pigs on corn; to foster cheese production, beekeeping, and silkworm breeding with the help of foreign experts, and to plant flowering plants rich in honey as well as mulberry trees for the silkworms; to regulate the price of grain; to construct grain storage facilities to prevent famines; to improve viniculture; to cultivate plants for industrial use; and to facilitate many of these initiatives by the imposition of import controls.

With regard to Transylvania's mineral resources, the committee noted the existence of crude oil deposits and the possibility of producing medicinal salts from mineral waters. It proposed to draw a clear distinction between agricultural and industrial crafts, to facilitate admission to guilds (but only after three years of training abroad), and to invite master-craftsmen from abroad. The plan called for creation of textile and other factories, primarily to serve the export market in the Romanian principalities, but also to supply the needs of the seven regiments that had their winter quarters in Transylvania, and for the assisted immigration of industrial experts. In its proposals for developing the textile and iron industries, the committee took pains to avoid conflicts of interest with Austria. It also wished to stimulate the production of ceramics.

In the interest of a more favourable balance of trade, the committee proposed to restrict or prohibit the import of luxury goods, and to prohibit imports that would compete with adequate locally-produced goods. It wanted to tailor the number of merchants to the country's needs, to prevent them from smuggling out their capital, and to restrict the activity of foreign merchants to the wholesale trade. It also wanted to eliminate the customs barrier between Transylvania and Hungary. To facilitate all this, the committee recommended expansion of the money supply, establishment of a {2-598.} 'Commercial Commission' (Commissio Commercialis), and a new credit system, as well as roadworks.

Although its inspiration was essentially mercantilist, the Teleki–Dobosi plan went somewhat beyond mercantilism in its calls for the modernization of agriculture, the creation of factories, the immigration of foreign experts, and the local training of experts. Only some 20 to 35 years later were a few of these proposals implemented, and then in the context of the Habsburgs' economic policy. The blame for the delay had to be born by Transylvania's own diet; in fall 1751, that conservative-dominated legislature rejected the Teleki–Dobosi plan on the grounds that it was 'unrealistic', and some of Teleki's most far-seeing recommendations met with open derision. Thereupon, the Ministerialkonferenz contented itself with appointing an economic committee to foster and supervise Transylvania's manufacturing sector. László Teleki was once again named chairman, and Dobosi a member of the committee. However, the plan that they developed in 1754 was a mere shadow of the original one. It included a more modest proposal for development of the textile industry, and retained only a few elements of the earlier program, notably the improvement of sheep-breeding and flax-growing and the domestic supply of the troops stationed in Transylvania. In the event, even this plan failed to get implemented.

The estates found only one more opportunity to address the broad questions of economic policy, in 1761. A conflict between the estates and the royal commissioner to the diet, Buccow, led to the appointment of a committee headed by Transylvania's Catholic bishop, Antal Bajtay, and charged with developing a plan for trade expansion. The committee identified three potential approaches: road repairs and the construction of new roads, measures to make rivers navigable, and the creation of a fund out of the proceeds of a proposed tobacco monopoly and a surtax on foreign traders. It developed detailed plans for a road network (clearly focused on Brassó and Szeben) and the control of waterways. Although ratified by the diet, this plan, too, failed to bring practical results.