Lifestyle

SEMC: Collusion Between the Ministry of Endowment and Hajj and Umrah Agencies

In a report to the Anti-Corruption Authority, the Studies and Economic Media Center (SEMC) has claimed collusion between the Ministry of Endowment and Guidance (MEG) and Hajj and Umrah agencies. SEMC’s report describes a compromise over lodging for pilgrims which has led to an increase of fees of 600 Saudi Riyals ($160) per pilgrim; pushing the total fees per pilgrim to SR 2,000 ($535).

The report described the process in which the MEG rented residential towers in Mecca for approximately nine thousand pilgrims. The MEG then required the agencies to rent only from these buildings. The agencies refused to rent from the MEG’s towers preferring their own rental methods. In an effort to compromise, the MEG proposed to the agencies that they could charge an additional SR 600 for each pilgrim that utilizes their residential towers. These fees are in addition to typical annual fees of SR 1,400 pushing the total fees to SR 2,000.

When the fees are included with the rest of Hajj costs such as accommodation, transportation and other services, it brings the total to SR 8,000 ($2,300). This increase has led Pilgrims to complain to the SEMC, stating that the new cost of the Hajj is now unacceptable. However, the Ministry has attributed this move to the increase in the level of Hajj services. Yet this increased level of service does not match the rise in the fees for Yemeni pilgrims.

The SEMC has demanded an investigation into the cause of the increase to verify its legitimacy. Although the issue is not critical to the health of the national economy, the SEMC has pursued this issue as it puts the Hajj and Umrah out of reach of Yemenis seeking to perform their Islamic duties.