MAKKAH: The government will strive to maintain the cost of performing the haj for Malaysian pilgrims through new and better business strategies to ensure they continue being subsidised at the same rate for upcoming seasons. In giving this assurance, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs, Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, said it would endeavour to do this through a better business plan and practices by Tabung Haji's (TH) new management. Lembaga TH in July appointed Tan Sri Mohammed Nor Md Yusof as its new chairman, and Datuk Seri Zukri Samat as its new chief executive officer. Mujahid said a new board of directors would be appointed soon to chart new, better business strategies for the pilgrims' fund. He added that for the time being, the subsidy amount would be retained even though it was high. "We will look at reducing the subsidy only when Malaysians already have the means," he told Malaysian reporters at TH headquarters Abraj Al-Janadriyah.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs, Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa (centre) meeting pilgrims at TH headquarters Abraj Al-Janadriyah. With him is Tabung Haji head of the Malaysian 1439H haj delegation Datuk Seri Syed Saleh Syed Abdul Rahman (left). Pix courtesy of Tabung Haji
The subsidy given to first time pilgrims is RM12,470 this year, 56 per cent of the actual cost of RM22,450, with haj pilgrims only paying RM9,980. The rate has been in use since 2009. TH bore a subsidy of RM400 million this year. Mujahid said the new Pakatan Harapan government placed utmost importance on trustworthiness in doing business. "Profit will go back to the people, in this case pilgrims, and not into the pockets of those with personal interests. "We will combat corruption to the very end. In this regard, TH is in the process of returning to the basis and core of its establishment in that profit should go to those it serves - the pilgrims. It will help and give those who want to perform the haj an avenue to save their money." Mujahid said the subsidy of RM12,470 was high but it would be absorbed via the best means possible. "No country in the world does this. But, the basis of TH's establishment is to serve pilgrims' and we will adhere to that." Mujahid said the new government wanted TH to be the benchmark for managing the best haj operations in the world. TH's exemplary services and Malaysian pilgrims' excellent image, he added, has resulted in Malaysia being accorded many privileges this year. "I would like to thank the Saudi government for the various new initiatives and privileges including the fast-track immigration system, air-conditioning in Arafah tents, ceramic tile flooring in Mina tents, and official approval for Malaysian pilgrims to perform the stoning ritual at a very good time, after asar prayers, together with other Southeast Asian nations." The minister said he personally experienced the faster arrival process courtesy of the pre-clearance privilege accorded by the Saudi government to Malaysian pilgrims this year. "It used to take up to 12 hours. Now, within one hour, we are already on the way to the hotel. This is a indeed a tremendous improvement." © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd