George Soros’s big idea on the refugee crisis isn’t half bad. Here’s why

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL September 28, 2015
Migrants arriving at the main railway station in Munich

Migrants arriving at the main railway station in Munich

George Soros, the Hungarian-born hedge fund manager and liberal philanthropist, has just offered a five-point plan to solve the refugee crisis. Or, perhaps not solve exactly, just deal with it actively and reliably.

Mr Soros, who has long fancied himself a public intellectual, clearly wants to bolster his credentials in that respect. The problem is that the plan hinges on Europe – and, for God’s sakes, the United Nations – so I’m not sure any of it will ever come to pass.

But two things picked out by Mr Soros’s financial brain seem to make more sense than his rather grand stipulation that the European Union (EU) “has to accept at least a million asylum-seekers annually for the foreseeable future”.

European countries need to find it appealing to accept refugees, he says. Absolutely right. There have to be incentives beyond good PR as a compassionate country. What could these be? Nothing beats money.

  1. Mr Soros recommends that the EU “provide €15,000 ($16,800) per asylum-seeker for each of the first two years to help cover housing, health care, and education costs.”
  2. His second big idea is for the EU to raise this money “by issuing long-term bonds using its largely untapped AAA borrowing capacity, which will have the added benefit of providing a justified fiscal stimulus to the European economy.”

Mr Soros has often put forward rather odd ideas. Remember his 2012 recommendation that Germany must either “lead or leave” the EU?

But if, as he told Chrystia Freeland when she was working on his biography, he is serious that the work he values most highly is “trying to understand the human predicament of being born into a world that exceeds our capacity to fully understand”, this may be a big idea worth engaging with.