WHY THE 2019 HAJJ PACKAGE FOR GAMBIANS D 323, 000.00 (US$6, 500) IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE IN WEST AFRICA? SOME TRAVEL AGENCIES ARE BENEFITING IMMENSELY FROM THIS WINDFALL
The annual pilgrimage to Mecca has been described as one of the greatest gathering of mankind. Performing the Hajj is obligatory upon male and female adult Muslims who are physically and mentally fit and have the financial means necessary to fulfill one of the fundamental pillars of Islam. That is why every year, millions of Islamic men and women, of all races from all over the world, gather for the same ritual of performing the Hajj. But in the Gambia performing the Hajj is now becoming the exclusivity for the rich and the well-connected.
This year’s Hajj package in the Gambia is one of the highest in the region. At D 323, 000.00 or US $6,500, the 2019 fare is far more expensive than what the Burkinabe, Ghanaians, Malians, Nigerians and Senegalese are required to pay in their countries. This signifies a major windfall for those in the Hajj business. The price in Senegal is unchanged for the second year while governments in several neighboring countries such as Ghana and Mali have intervened to reduce the price making it affordable to its people.
A brief comparative analysis of the Hajj fares in six countries revealed a huge price difference between what is being charged in the Gambia with our neighboring countries especially in Senegal our closest neighbor which is less than 25 minutes flight time.
There, the committee responsible for Hajj operations has fixed the price at FCFA 2, 600, 000approx. US$4, 400 which is 43 percent below our price. The brief analysis below shows the exponential rise in the Hajj price fixed by the Hajj commission has no basis.
|COUNTRY||HAJJ 2019 FARE (Local Currency)||FARE IN (US Dollar)||% Diff.|
|1. Gambia||GMD 323, 000.00||USD 6, 500||–|
|2. Nigeria||Naira 1, 500, 000||USD 5, 000||30%|
|3. Senegal||FCFA 2, 600, 000||USD 4, 400||43%|
|4. Mali||FCFA 2, 238, 000||USD 3, 800||71%|
|5. Burkina Faso||FCFA 2, 100, 000||USD 3, 500||85%|
|6. Ghana||GHc 19, 500||USD 3, 500||85%|
The intervention by the governments of Ghana, Burkina and Mali make the Hajj prices in those countries affordable for many more Muslims to perform this year. Unless the government of Adama Barrow did the same, many Gambians without the necessary financial resources will find it difficult to fulfill one of the five pillars of Islam in their lifetime.
When the price of bread was increased from D7 to D8, the reaction from government was swift and decisive. Although, the crisis has yet to be completely resolved in a timely manner, the interventions have at least brought back bread to our breakfast tables. If similar measures are taken, the price for this Hajj could be aligned with those in our neighboring countries.
Whether the fares are paid for by siblings or relatives in the diaspora, it is very unfair to ask intending pilgrims to pay exorbitantly for the same services being offered by travel agents in other countries at prices far below than that which is currently being charged in the Gambia. The opening up of the Hajj operations to other agencies is not only meant to give a better service and choices to pilgrims, but to make the cost affordable to the increasingly growing number of ordinary people who are becoming concerned about not ever meeting one of the fundamental pillars of Islam in their lifetime. Some members of the Hajj commission stand to gain financially at the detriment of poor Gambians.
Overpricing the cost of the Hajj fare to make excessive profits is un-Islamic.
Culled from FREEDOM NEWSPAPER
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