How is it the rich can afford to bailout Notre Dame while so many are struggling? Just two days – two days! – after a catastrophic fire gutted one of France’s most famous landmarks, almost one billion euros had been donated to the rebuilding effort. The majority of the money was pledged by some of the wealthiest families in France, and questions are already being asked about what sort of tax breaks or other perks they might expect to receive in return (though some donors have already publicly renounced their tax breaks).

French officials say they have no idea how much rebuilding will actually cost. It could easily be three times the amount raised. However, early estimates suggested something in the region of €600 million to repair the damage. Could the money donated be better spent on something else, such as alleviating poverty or tackling climate change?

There are certainly no end of worthy causes competing for attention. Mozambique, for example, has appealed for a mere $281 million to help in the wake of the tropical cyclone that killed over 1,000 people in March 2019. More than a month after the cyclone hit, they were still only 23% funded towards that goal (despite a cholera epidemic being reported in the country).

Some argue we don’t need to choose between helping the poor and donating to Notre Dame. However, it does feel like a choice has been made. If nothing else, the episode highlights the deep inequalities in Europe today (not to mention globally).

What cause would you donate 1 billion euros to? Would the money donated to help rebuild Notre Dame be better spent on tackling poverty in France? Or providing disaster relief abroad? Or addressing climate change globally? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (cc) WikiMedia – Hossam.ouda

28 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Marcus Mircea-Valentin

    First of all, funds designated to a specific purpose shouldn’t ever be repurposed in any case, also, using money reserved for restoring a national symbol shouldnn’t be used for socialists campaign slogans such as social justice, climate change or any other fantasy project.

  2. avatar
    Paul X

    I would donate 1 billion Euros to close down the EU and establish a streamlined agency with just one set of national representitives which simply enables efficient trade between the countries of Europe without all the protectionism, bureaucracy creating duplicate standards, wine cellars, business lunches, Brussels to Strasbourg wasted costs, etc etc

    • avatar
      James McManama

      Hi Paul,

      I think what you propose would result in a smaller (and more fragmented) common market, more protectionism (especially non-tariff barriers), and less trade between European countries. This is because cross-border trade at the volume and intensity occurring within the Single Market cannot easily be isolated from political questions, social policy, etc. Protectionism can come in the form of cultural quotas, localisation requirements, subsidies, customs delays, import quotas, overly-restrictive standards, and so on. So, restricting the EU to “just trade” would mean, inevitably, less trade.

      Which is fine. It’s a trade-off. In return, countries would individually have greater sovereignty (though smaller EU countries might, perversely, have less sovereignty as they get pushed around by great or regional powers).

      The lesson of the Brexit referendum campaign was that scrapping or withdrawing from the EU needs to be presented as a trade-off. Scrapping the EU is not a win across the board. It means taking an economic hit. That’s a legitimate choice. But it should be clearly explained as a price. The “cake and eat it” strategy is dishonest.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      James I disagree

      Trade does not have to be linked by politics. Trading between nations has gone on for centuries without the need for political or economic union. The EU has managed to establish itself as being essential for inter European trade where as the reality is, it adds very little value to what it does. As one example, there are perfectably acceptable international standards which could be adopted for inter EU trade, but instead the EU has decided to create it’s own, which it then makes mandatory for the single market. These standards do nothing to improve consumer protection but cost a lot of taxpayers money to manage and their sole purpose is simply EU protectionism

  3. avatar

    In either case they won’t be spent as it should as they’ll go through foundations and similar bodies, which will inevitably cause substantial chunks from them to dissapear. You know, for administration, annual meetings of shareholders, new Range Rovers for the management, those kind of stuff.

  4. avatar

    To unify Europe, after that every problem can be solved.

  5. avatar

    To Mozambique,,, People are dying .. They are far more important than monuments…..

  6. avatar

    Instead to debate about Notre dame, could Europe deal with the WWII toxic bombs in the North Sea and the Channel? It’s a environment bomb and nobody cares.

  7. avatar

    For homeless people across the continent?
    For creating new jobs?
    For education programmes for unemployed people?
    As you see a have some ideas but not the money

  8. avatar

    No. Preserving art and culture is as important as people.
    People can’t live without inspiration and art is meaningless without people.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      Only an artist would say that….people cannot survive by simply admiring art…, they also have to eat and drink

    • avatar
      M. Dolmans

      I am not an artist, and I am not French, but I agree with Antonio.

  9. avatar

    Personally, I would donate half million for kids 3-7 years of age & the rest to unemployed of 50+ to get new skills and to the old to mild poverty.

  10. avatar

    Starvation…1 billion could be invested in electricity and agriculture in Africa …teach them howto do thingsfor long tern sustainabilitu

    • avatar

      Taline – like unicef has been doing for the last 70 years?

    • avatar

      Павел – nope..definitely not like UNICEF

  11. avatar

    Taline – Unfortunately we don’t have a say in it.

  12. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    Sorry, but such hypothetical & superfluous questions & discussions are befitting groups of friends- not the EU. Which or what EU supra-political value has that? Let’s hear from competent EU politicians, if they think it has. WE will be their judge!

    Who benefits from political spin to control and/or direct private assets- earned by legal means? The National governments are no charity, NGO, nor do they count as church organizations but represent many state functions such as tax collection & its distribution!

    History has recorded how some of the greatest and lasting human creations came to be- and it was definitely not by issuing “EU Directives” to donate or confiscate personal wealth- as per “neo Marxist doctrine”. Also not by “EU veiled hints” that donating huge private sums might be obscene, extravagant or a waste- if not EU controlled.

    Any person who has an abundance of something- legally acquired- is free to decide how to give, how much to give and what purpose it should serve.

    It is a dangerous suggestions that a political concept like the EU should be given the slightest power in law to decide over personal assets/property- be they earned, saved or owned honestly by the poor, middle, rich or mega rich.

    Please, stretch your imaginations a bit further how to abolish ALL global “tax havens” first.

    “The EU Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive” which took effect on January 1, 2019 in which all member states are obligated to implement that directive in their national law by 1 January 2020 is a step in the right direction.

    However, it leaves many back doors for the global and none EU tax dodgers (criminal & “upright individuals”) in EU’s Luxembourg, none EU Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra & more open.

    Might it be one (additional) reason to speculate why UK’s “dogging fraternity” may be supporting Brexit to leave the EU to avoid the coming Tax Avoidance Directive?

    One cannot fully trust the local & global elite, celebrities & aristocracy to never have their fingers in the EU political pie!

  13. avatar
    catherine benning

    What cause would you donate 1 billion euros to?

    The only causes I would suggest one billion of our tax payers money would be for those ‘only’ connected to indigenous Europeans. Those who are homeless, not immigrants, they are the front line for all charity. Likewise, our starving families, our infrastructure that is falling apart, like potholes, filthy rubbish filled roads and highways. Street maintenance, police who must be reinstalled to local streets in order to hinder our dramatic rise in stabbings, acid attacks, rape and general third world imported criminality against the citizens of our countries on a scale never envisaged by our hopeless, uninformed members of parliament. The do gooders who only have well meaning for those who enter our society, rather than those who live from birth and work to keep our states going. Educational facilities to rid us of politically correct, inept studies, only fit for half wits. Animal husbandry and general care now left hanging in a nasty way with the import of weird, unhealthy foreign practices including the slitting of live animal throats without stunning. All of which has deteriorated rapidly since being part of the EEC and EU.

    Of course a billion is chicken feed, but, it’s a start.

  14. avatar
    Fern Moore

    This is kinda dumb. We charitably donate money to every disaster on earth, accept thousands of migrants/refugees to our economy’s detriment, and provide foreign aid funding to boot. A sacred and historical monument goes up in smoke at “home” and we’re all chastised for thinking money should be spent to rebuild it. We’re not taking money away from something else to do it if it’s being done through private donations. Sometimes it’s OK to take care of yourself first. People need art, history, culture and symbolism to feel live. Let the people have this without making them feel guilty about it.

  15. avatar
    M. Dolmans

    It should be spent on Notre Dame. (I gave money myself, too.) It was given by private persons to restore a monument which is an inspiration for countless people, and a symbol of our history, and a beacon of beauty. Note I am not French, but feel deeply that this is part of the heritage of mankind. The money is rightly spent on Notre Dame — and surplus, if any, should be set aside for future maintenance of the cathedral or similar buildings that are collapsing. None of this is to say that there are no other worthy causes — climate and social justice foremost. We have a lot more to give — individually and collectively — and absolutely need to do a lot more, to switch from polluting energy and technologies to a sustainable economy. This is crucial for our survival .

    P.S., to those who take the opportunity to criticize the EU: I am a staunch believer that the EU, with all its flaws (nothing is perfect) is essential to preserve peace, prosperity, and what remains of western values.

  16. avatar
    Vincenzo, Leila, Francesco, Giorgia

    There are lots of problems, but at the moment there are priorities like the Amazon Forest. Even so Notre Dame is a very important and beautiful monument, replanting the trees that burned in the Amazon Forest is more important. We must respect our planet: we must recycle and be eco friendly. In conclusion, we must think about World’s future.

  17. avatar
    Vincenzo, Leila, Francesco, Giorgia

    There are lots of problems, but at the moment there are priorities like the Amazon Forest. Even though Notre Dame is a very important and beautiful monument, replanting the trees that burned in the Amazon Forest is more important. We must respect our planet: we must recycle and be eco friendly. In conclusion, we must think about World’s future.

  18. avatar

    In our opinion we don’t think it is right to spend so much money on rebuilding Notre Dame when you could give it to poor countries, such as Africa where children starve, or more important causes, like the Amazon fires.

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