Religion of 2014-04-23

Exhorbitant yearly increase of hajj fares worrisome

We have noted with grave concern and disbelief the quantum jump of the recently announced Hajj fare for the 2014 pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Hajj pilgrimage is the fifth pillar of Islam, a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for all Muslims who have the means. It is therefore very central to the Islamic faith. However, the exorbitant increases in the cost for successive Hajj over the years is denying thousands of Ghanaian Muslims the opportunity to honour this pillar of faith.
For instance, in 2011, the Hajj fare was around 47million old cedis, it upsurged to 52million old cedi in 2012,signifying a 9% increment. In 2013, it climbed up to 68million representing a 23.5% increment. Again, just lastweek, the National Hajj committee announced that, it has pegged the 2014 Hajj fare at US $3450, equivalent to a 100million old cedis showing an increase of approximately 32%. It is clear from these statistics that the Hajj fare has increased by more than a 100% within a period of just four years. We are afraid that if this trend continues unabated, the average Ghanaian pilgrim will have to pay through his nose to be able to perform Hajj in the next five years
In the words of the National Hajj Committee head, Alhaji Abdul Rauf Tanko , the committee decided to maintain last years’ US $3450 because the just ended Hajj conference in Saudi Arabia did not make any substantial changes to last year’s arrangement that could have affected the fare. However, the Hajj committee failed to inform prospective pilgrims and the general public why they have to pay over 32million old cedis more when the fare has not been upwardly adjusted.
It is worrying to note however that, though the 2014 Hajj fare remains unchanged (US $3450) in dollar term, its equivalent value in cedis has ballooned to 100million old cedis . Thus, within a space of a year, Ghanaian pilgrims will have to cough an extra 32 milliion old cedis more than they paid last year.
Equally frustrating is the fact that the general living conditions of the Ghanaian has worsened over the past few years. Almost on a weekly basis, the Ghanaian pays more on utilities food ,shelter , transportation etc. So with all these hardships , coupled with these exhorbitant charges, how does the Government expect Muslims to embark on this pilgrimage, which is a pillar central to the Islamic faith.
We are, in view of the above expressed concern, calling on the Government to act swiftly to reduce the cost of the 2014 Hajj exercise.
Additionally, the government should come clean on the details and the nature of sponsorships it gives to Muslim pilgrims. What is known is that , but for the few hundreds of party foot soldiers that receive sponsorships from the public purse , every other pilgrim bears the full cost which covers all their expenses including airfare, feeding, accommodation and administrative charges.
Again, Transparency and accountability in managing hajj affairs is not only necessary but expedient in building pilgrims’ confidence in their quest to perform one of the pillars of Islam. Therefore the commission should go beyond mere announcement of Hajj fares via press statements. It should in its future engagements, make public the detailed financial analysis on the causes of increase in Hajj fares together with a comprehensive breakdown of services to be rendered to pilgrims vis-a –vis the cost implications for the benefit of the public.
Samudeen Mustapha
Publicity Secretary