France to launch international contest to rebuild Notre-Dame Spire: PM

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PARIS, April 17: France will invite architects from around the world to submit designs for rebuilding the spire of Notre-Dame cathedral that was destroyed in a devastating blaze, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Wednesday.
The goal is “to give Notre-Dame a new spire that is adapted to the techniques and the challenges of our era,” Philippe told reporters a day after President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the cathedral “even more beautifully” within five years.
Thousands of Parisians and tourists watched in horror on Monday as flames engulfed a monument that has symbolised Paris for nearly a millennium, toppling the spire and gutting a large part of the roof.
No sooner had firefighters extinguished the flames than pledges of donations towards rebuilding it began to pour in.
Within 24 hours, the pledges had reached more than 800 million euros ($900 million), with French business magnates and corporations jostling to outshine each other with displays of generosity.
Rebate debate
But the slew of announcements raised eyebrows in France, with some leftist politicians arguing that the ultra-rich could best help protect the country’s cultural heritage by fully paying their taxes — or helping the “human cathedral” of people in need.
The huge tax breaks available on the donations also caused some unease, prompting Francois-Henri Pinault, the billionaire CEO of the Kering luxury goods empire, to announce he would forfeit his rebate.
“The donation for Notre-Dame of Paris will not be the object of any tax deduction. Indeed, the Pinault family considers that it is out of the question to make French taxpayers shoulder the burden,” Pinault said in a statement.
Pinault had led the pledges of donations starting Monday night with a promise of 100 million euros.
Billionaire Bernard Arnault and his LVMH luxury conglomerate, Total oil company and cosmetics giant L’Oreal also each pledged 100 million euros or more, while US tech giant Apple said it would give an unspecified amount.
French corporations are eligible for a 60-percent tax rebate on cultural donations.
The government said Wednesday that number would remain unchanged, but increased the rebate on individual donations for Notre-Dame of up to 1,000 euros to 75 percent. Bigger private donations would qualify for the standard 66 percent rebate. (AFP)