The cost to perform haj expected to rise

TH is still contemplating the SOPs from the Saudi govt, aside from the 15% increase in VAT

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / Pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

THE overall cost for any individual who plans to perform the haj is expected to rise as a result of a 15% increase in value-added tax (VAT), which was implemented in 2018 by the Saudi Arabia government.

Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH) ED Datuk Seri Syed Saleh Syed Abdul Rahman (picture) said while the increase is imminent, its quantum could not be ascertained due to the lack of information on the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and health protocols that need to be adhered to.

“Apart from the increase of the VAT from 5% to 15% which took effect on July 1, 2020, there will be goods and services that will be incurred more than previously,” he said during the media briefing last Friday.

TH — which is responsible for the preparation of accommodation, transportation, flights, meals, the worshipping terms and law in Makkah and Madinah for the pilgrims — is still contemplating the SOPs from the Saudi Arabian government.

The SOPs and strict haj health protocols to be issued by the Saudi Arabian government are expected to cover physical distancing in accommodation buildings, transportation and the performance of worship to ensure the safety of pilgrims from around the world.

Syed Saleh said the fund is making early preparations for the pilgrims in the wake of the new norm in operations handling in Malaysia and its departure stations nationwide.

“Even if there is still no certainty about the implementation of the haj this year, TH still needs to take steps to prepare.

“The Malaysian government and TH are still waiting for the official announcement of the Saudi Arabian government regarding the haj and the number of national pilgrims allowed to perform the fifth pillar of Islam this year,” he said.

He added that pilgrims who have received their offer letters for the 1441H/2020M haj season will be given the priority above those who may receive their offer letter for the following year or season.

“Given the quota, we will only be able to bring along a certain number of pilgrims with us for this upcoming season. Equally, should there be a number of those left behind, then they will also be prioritised for the next season,” he said.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia announced that it would meet Malaysia’s request to increase its haj quota, from 31,600 previously, by another 10,000 pilgrims.

Syed Saleh said individuals who received the offer letters last year should register for vaccination as it is likely that they are the top priority for the upcoming season.

“This would ensure the pilgrims are confirmed for the waiting list. We are also currently discussing with the Health Ministry to look into the current immunisation plan to see if they can work out a system that could fit these pilgrims in,” he said.

The Minister of Health of Saudi Arabia recently stated that the Covid-19 vaccination is one of the mandatory conditions for all prospective pilgrims who wish to perform the haj for the coming season.

Last Thursday, TH also issued the haj licence to 22 local travel companies, including its subsidiary Tabung Haji Travel and Services Sdn Bhd to operate for the upcoming season.

As the fund board is currently waiting for official information on the pilgrimage for the year, all of the haj pilgrimage operators are still not allowed to advertise their packages until an official permission has been issued by the board.

Companies that have been granted with the licence include TH Travel Services Sdn Bhd, Andalusia Travel Tours Sdn Bhd, Alif Travel Tours Sdn Bhd, Al-Balad Travel Tours Sdn Bhd, Az Zuha Group Travel Tours Sdn Bhd, Batuta Travel Tours Sdn Bhd, CS Holidays Sdn Bhd, Citra Travel Tours Sdn Bhd, Eiman Travel Tours Sdn Bhd, Gemilang Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd and Jad Travel Tours (M) Sdn Bhd.

Other companies also include Juara Travel Tours Sdn Bhd, Masmas Travel Tours Sdn Bhd, MIMM Travel Tours Sdn Bhd, MKM Ticketing Travel Tours Sdn Bhd, Rayhar Travels Sdn Bhd, Syarikat Pelancongan Yaskin Sdn Bhd, TM Tours Travel Sdn Bhd, TRI-D Travel Tours Sdn Bhd, UTAS Travel Tours Worldwide Holidays Sdn Bhd, Wira Saujana Travel Tours Sdn Bhd and Zahafiz Travel Tours Sdn Bhd.