A case study from a current audio-visual comments by Former Ghana’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Alhaji Said Sinare
In 2016, the Ghana Hajj Board announced $3,450 equivalent to GH₵11,900 with an exchange rate of GH₵3.45 to the $1 in 2016. Meanwhile our brothers from Nigeria paid a maximum of $1,500 equivalent to 1,155,947.42 Naira and a minimum of $750 equivalent of 1,008,197 Naira.
For that matter, the Ghana Hajj fare was twice that of Nigeria and Alhaji Sinare who tried playing politics with Hajj operations was the Ghana’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia which I think must be discouraged irrespective of one’s political affiliation.
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Even with the Hajj fare of GH₵11,900 in 2016, Ghana participated fully in the Hajj despite some initial complaints of how expensive it was at that time which wasn’t the fault of the then Hajj Board since Muslims consider the last pillar of Islam as a life time spiritual achievement and another way of reaching out to Allah directly. So every Muslim irrespective of how much it costs to perform Hajj and is in their reach, will sacrifice their legitimate resources to embark on the pilgrimage.
Before the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no taxes in Saudi Arabia and a litre of petrol cost less than a litre of bottled water.
The world was hit with COVID-19 which affected world economies including Saudi Arabia. As a result, the Hajj pilgrimage was suspended for countries outside Saudi Arabia for two years until 2022. Saudi Arabia had increase the VAT from 5% to %15 which translated into high cost of performing Hajj for all countries.
The post COVID era also saw a surge in the forex market especially making transactions in the US dollar. The recovery programme of industrialised countries has pushed prices of goods and services to rise thus having direct effect to third world countries like Ghana and Nigeria where imports are higher than export. This and many factors have therefore affected the Cedi on the forex market forcing the it to depreciate against the US dollar at $1 to GH₵12.90.
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This year’s Hajj fares of various countries including developed countries are hitting a maximum of $8,000 and a minimum of $5,400 depending on the airline proximity and cost.
The high cost of Hajj and Umrah has therefore compelled the Ghana Hajj Board to fix the Hajj fare in correspondence to the cost of Hajj services in Saudi Arabia including airline services, aviation charges and other administrative costs. The Ghana Hajj fare includes feeding of pilgrims twice a day from Madina and the rest of the stay in Saudi Arabia which wasn’t the case in 2016 and the Hajj operations before same year.
Even with the depreciation of the Cedi to the dollar, the Ghana Hajj Board has pegged the exchange rate to GH₵11.50 to $1 for prospective Ghanaian pilgrims to be able to pay the $6,500 Hajj fare which is the GH₵75,000 instead of paying around GH₵84,000 with the forex rate of GHC 12.90 to the dollar.
In conclusion, every Ghanaian Muslim living in and outside Ghana should with fear of Allah avoid using Hajj operations in partisan politics irrespective of the political regime. There should be a consensus on Hajj related matters across board and issues of Hajj should be treated sacred and in accordance with the teachings of Prophet Mohammed S.A.W., whichever Hajj Board is in service should be given the needed support in solidarity to succeed.
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By Mohammed Rabiu Tanko
Hajj and Umrah independent Reporter