February 16, 2023
JAKARTA – Despite plans to announce the new haj cost on Monday, discussions between the House of Representatives Commission VIII overseeing religious affairs and officials from the Religious Affairs Ministry have turned heated as lawmakers remain unsatisfied over the hotel and catering costs proposed by the ministry.
“We apologize to the pilgrims, as we still haven’t reached a decision on how much the haj is going [to cost] for the pilgrims and the subsidies the government is going to provide,” Commission VIII deputy chairman Marwan Dasopang said after the meeting was adjourned on Monday.
The National Awakening Party (PKB) lawmaker added that the discussion would continue on Tuesday, with the House hoping that they could settle the debate over several items within the haj costs. As the discussion extended past 7 p.m., legislators were still calling out the ministry on the hotel and catering costs, which they deemed too high.
“It’s fine if the ministry wants to set the cost as it is, but we at the Gerindra Party want nothing to do with it. […] Rest assured that we’ll conduct an investigation [on the hotel and catering costs] in Saudi Arabia to check the actual prices,” Commission VIII member Abdul Wachid from Gerindra said during the meeting.
Despite the ensuing deadlock, the House and the ministry initially managed to reach an agreement to set the haj cost for Indonesian pilgrims this year at Rp 49 million (US$3,228.78), down from the original proposal of Rp 69 million. While the overall cost of haj remains the same at around Rp 98 million, the ministry plans on halving the subsidies given to pilgrims in 2023 after having to foot 60 percent of the haj cost in the previous year.
“We think this is the most logical way to maintain the sustainability of the Haj Fund Management Agency [BPKH]. So we plan on cutting [the subsidies] to only 30 percent, with pilgrims covering the remaining 70 percent,” said Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas while meeting with the House in mid-January.
Before Monday’s meeting, the House set an ambitious goal of lowering the haj cost per pilgrim to under Rp 50 million. But even after grilling the ministry’s Haj and Umrah (minor haj) Management Director General Hilman Latief for hours, lawmakers were only able to trim the overall haj cost down to Rp 90 million.
If the ministry still insists on forwarding 70 percent of the cost to the people, the pilgrims still will have to pay around Rp 63 million. As such, the House proposed that for this year, the pilgrims only have to pay 55 percent of the haj cost, or around Rp 49 million, with the ministry taking care of the rest.
“If we agree on this, the cost for the pilgrims will still be higher than the subsidies. I think this is a pretty good result in terms of balancing sustainability and [providing for the people],” Commission VIII deputy chairman Ace Hasan Syadzily of Golkar Party said during the meeting.