Sat, 27 Aug 1994

Government sets no limit on size of 1995 haj pilgrimage

JAKARTA (JP); The government says it is not setting any maximum limit on the number of Indonesians allowed to take part in the haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia next year despite predictions that it will exceed the quota set by Riyadh.

Minister of Religious Affairs Tarmizi Taher said on Thursday that the size of Indonesian pilgrimage next year will reach between 180,000 and 190,000, up from 165,000 this year.

The increase in the size of Indonesian pilgrims have posed logistical problems, including the need to lease jet planes specially to transport them to Saudi Arabia and back and providing accommodation in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi authorities this year gave signals that they may restrict the number of Indonesian pilgrims in the coming years as it became clear that it was exceeding the unofficial quota of one percent of Indonesia's Moslem population, or estimated at 160,000. 1994 saw the first time that Indonesia exceeded its quota.

Government officials however said they hope to negotiate for a higher quota from the Saudi government for next year.

Tarmizi also announced on Thursday that the cost of the pilgrimage next year has been slightly increased by Rp 170,000 to Rp 7.07 million ($3,330).

This represents a 2.46 percent increase, which is still lower than the annual inflation rate of around seven percent.

Tarmizi said the government has tried to limit the increase to a minimum, below the inflation rate.

Some savings have been made by shortening the total length of the pilgrimage from 36 days to 34, he said.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs organizes the travel arrangements for the pilgrims. Up to 14,000 people however made their haj arrangements with private operators. (emb)