The massive fire that destroyed part of the historic 850-year old cathedral of Norte-Dame in Paris was a huge tragedy not only for France but also the entire world.
But what struck me in the immediate aftermath of the incident was the response of wealthy French businessmen – owners of luxury brands as well as large commercial and oil companies – to restore the symbol of French heritage and unity – to its former glory as quickly as possible. I was amazed at the fact nearly 450 million euros were raised almost immediately.
The French president also promised to rebuild the iconic structure in not more than five years and he added there would be an international campaign to collect more donations. The speed of the response represents a national sense of loyalty and commitment to stand alongside when it is going through this ordeal.
I believe this has led to lessons being learnt for generations to come. The true love of the country, its institutions and the milieu of its precious land is revealed only during hard and testing times.
In our Eastern societies though, we do not see such initiatives from our private institutions – whether it’s banks, companies, business houses or affluent people who are often reluctant to donate and support the nation. It is for this reason I have suggested even earlier that the government should consider how to diversify its sources of income and support its budgets by imposing taxes or annual fees on the profits of such institutions. Such a law had earlier been imposed in the 1980s but was never implemented fully.
The Bahrain Culture and Antiquities Authority, represented by its chairperson, Shaikha Mai bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, is making excellent efforts to promote culture, and everyone is witness to what her sincere efforts are leading to with one look at the exquisite projects that have been completed.
But these efforts need a lot of material support which is a pity since the authority has limited resources due to the budget it is allocated. Shaikha Mai is personally coordinating with banks, companies and private institutions and traders to urge them to support the authority so that it is able to implement projects to match the best in the world.
I am of the opinion it is time for all of us to rise to the occasion and provide sustained support to help official and popular bodies strive to implement projects to serve the community and the nation.
MPs should consider passing a law to allocate an annual percentage of profits to be used by all ministries and state agencies in a systematic and prioritised manner, especially if we realise the size of the budget deficit experienced by all government institutions.
On the other hand, there is a need for regulation and transparency. If this is done, donors have the right to know and see channels and expenditure on a monthly basis.
I am sure the readers agree with me on the importance of putting this proposal to the House of Representatives instead of wasting time in the discussing projects that, at best, fall under the jurisdiction of the municipal councils.