How Inflation affects Bangladesh Hajj registrations, 34% quota unsold

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Taher Mridha, a banker by profession, planned to perform hajj this year. But taking into consideration the skyrocketing costs of almost every essential commodity, he postponed his hajj plan until circumstances become more favourable.

Mofizur Rahman, a retiree for two years, saved up some money to perform hajj in 2024. But he could not justify the hajj costs, which would be a huge pressure on his already limited savings. So he cancelled his plans for hajj, and seeks to perform Umrah later.

Like Taher and Mofizur, many others have backed out from their plans to perform hajj this year due a significant increase in their living costs.

Many others like them have dropped their plans to perform hajj this year due to the rising living costs. Although the impact of inflation was low last year, its impact has increased this year. As a result, the hajj quota has been going back for the last two years.

According to the religious affairs ministry, 1,27,198 Bangladeshis have the opportunity to perform hajj this year, which is almost the same compared to last year. However, the scheduled quota for pilgrims is yet to be filled despite multiple time extensions.

This has been the case in the last two years as well.

In 2024, 83,145 pilgrims registered against the quota for 1,27,198 devotees. Among them, 4,250 people registered officially and 78,895 people registered privately for hajj, ministry sources say.

They added that around 44,044 pilgrim quota remain vacant, which is about 34 per cent of the total. Last year, the quota needed around 3,500 registrations to be filled. But the response this year is much lower compared to last year.

It should be noted that Bangladesh has been witnessing high Inflation for the last one and a half years. This rate was close to 10 per cent throughout 2023.

Food inflation exceeded 12.5 per cent in August 2023, which was the highest in the last decade. Overall inflation was 9.86 per cent in January this year and it slightly declined to 9.67 per cent in February.

Officials from the ministry and Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) said hajj packages were set at Tk 6,83,000 and Tk 6,72,000 under government and private management respectively in 2023.

But this time the hajj package price has been reduced compared to last year by about Tk 1 lakh to Tk 5,78,000. The pilgrims are still struggling to cover the expenses.

Speaking to The Business Post, religious affairs ministry Additional Secretary Motiul Islam said, “More than 83,000 people have registered for performing hajj. Compared to the last time, the hajj cost has been reduced by Tk 1 lakh, but the response has been lower than previous year.”

Hajj registration for 2024 began on November 15 last year, and ended on December 10. In the first phase, the time was extended till December 31 due to a lack of response from pilgrims. After that, the registration period was extended till January 18 this year in the second phase.

In the third phase, the religious affairs ministry extended the registration period from January 25 to February 1. But, due to the lack of response yet again, the deadline was extended till February 6.

Commenting on the issue, Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) President M Shahadat Hossain said, “The registration process was in the midst of national elections. Because of this, many did not register for performing hajj.

“This year, the hajj cost has decreased by Tk 1 lakh compared to last year. But the cost of Umrah is far less. One can perform Umrah spending a maximum Tk 1,50,000 to Tk 2,00,000. As a result, many are now turning to Umrah to save costs.”

Hajj, travel agencies fear losses

There are over 1,000 Hajj agencies in Bangladesh. Apart from this, travel agents also deal with pilgrims. Although the number of pilgrims has decreased, other expenses including their management costs remain the same.

Ticket sales will also drop significantly for the three scheduled airlines. As a result, Hajj and travel agencies are facing financial losses. Some agencies have already wrapped up their Hajj-centric business.

The Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) Secretary General Abdus Salam Aref said, “The travel agents are facing losses due to reduced interest of hajj pilgrims. The sale of plane tickets has dropped more than by half.”

Source: businesspostbd

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