The new Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr. Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has said he will launch discussions to provide Hajj pilgrimage quota to Maldives Hajj Corporation exclusively in a bid to eliminate price inflation by private Hajj groups.
Speaking at the "Raajje Miadhu" tv program from Public Service Media (PSM), Dr. Shaheem said that he will discuss to bring all pilgrimage quota under the state-owned Hajj Corporation, which he said would be the most beneficial option for pilgrims.
He further pledged to launch efforts to increase Hajj quotas per year to the Maldives.
Maldives currently receives 1,000 Hajj quotas from the Saudi Arabian government. Dr. Shaheem pledged to increase the quota by another 1,000 in the current government's bid to ease facilitation of Hajj and Umra proceedings.
Since the decision for fixing quota is not on the hands of the Maldives government, achieving a quick result will have challenges, according to the minister. The minister however, expressed optimism for positive results once he launches discussions with the Saudi government.
The minister further said President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu has already launched communication regarding the issue. The newly inaugurated President had discussed the matter in great length with the Saudi delegation that attended his inauguration.
Dr. Shaheem also promised to increase vigilance towards price hikes on Hajj and Umra trips, charged by private Hajj companies.
"They are charging extensively from the public. They have been taking pilgrims at bids for MVR 75,000, MVR 80,000 or MVR 90,000. Additionally, they charge another MVR 50,000 or MVR 70,000 from pilgrims themselves, which is a significant loss for the public, and we need an alternative to this," Shaheem said.
"The primary solution is to award all quotas exclusively to the Hajj Corporation."
Out of the 1,000 quotas the government received last year, 270 were awarded to private Hajj groups with the remainder awarded to Hajj Corporation.
The case of inflated prices for Hajj came to spotlight then as well, with issues of said groups in making arrangements for pilgrims.
The minister said that current arrangements for private groups in executing trips for Umrah pilgrims will remain effective.
The Maldives Hajj Corporation was first established in 2013 during the tenure of Dr. Shaheem as the Minister of Islamic Affairs.
The minister assured extending professional assistance to improve the operations of the corporation.