Concerns over financial aid for Haj pilgrims clarified

National 2 minutes, 57 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

A STATE Legislative Council member brought up the topic of the "financial assistance" for performing Haj provided to government officers and staff during the sixth session of LegCo on Saturday which he said has not been reviewed since its inception.

According to council member YB Orang Kaya Maha Bijaya Hj Othman Uking, the cost for performing Haj increases every year and had reached up to a total of $8,000 for each individual therefore the amount $3,500 is considered not sufficient.

"I wish to ask whether the government in particular the Ministry of Religious Affairs will be reviewing the total amount of the assistance?"

YB Pehin Jawatan Luar Pekerma Raja Dato Seri Utama Dr Ustaz Hj Mohd Zain Hj Serudin, Minister of Religious Affairs, in his response clarified that His Majesty's Government only provides the kurnia (financial assistance) for flight and transportation fares which as of 1430/2009 has been fixed at $2,700.

Meanwhile, the transportation fare from the Madinah Airport to the hotel, from Mekah to Madinah and then from Mekah to Masyahir that is Arafah, Mina, Mekah and then from Mekah to Jeddah is estimated to be around $139.

"Therefore the expenses for the fare in 2009 in general for Mekah-Brunei-Mekah is only $2,839. The flight fare awarded is $3,500, minus $2,839 then the balance is $661," said the religious minister.

Actually, the amount for the kurnia for performing Haj is reviewed annually by the relevant committee and the same committee will suggest the total amount of the particular fare to be considered by the government, every year.

"Nevertheless, this matter will be forwarded to the advisory panel in the Haj committee for their attention," he said.

YB OKMB Hj Othman also questioned on the fate of the zakat (tithe) recipients who are among the country's fakir miskin (poor) population after the period of receiving the tithes, which is five years, are over.

"I wish to know the steps that have been taken by relevant authorities in helping them to overcome their problems during that period so that they will no longer be fully dependent on the assistance, and if they are still being categorised as 'poor' after the period is over, are they still qualified to receive it (aid) in the future?"

Minister of Religious Affairs in response to the question said that the ministry had used the media as a channel to provide explanations and advisesand they also met with the recipients themselves. He said they suggested and advised the recipients to use the money in the best way possible such as on children's education, apart from daily needs, because if the children had succeeded in their education then they as the next generation they would be able to pull their families out from the cycle of poverty. He said it was also hoped that the recipients would not depend solely on the zakat , but would make an effort to start a small business so that their lives would slowly change for the better.

The minister also told the council about the ministry's programme to provide skill training for zakat recipients known as the Program Pengupayaan Asnaf Zakat at the Youth Development Centre, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

He said during the training participants would be given work placement at the government and private sector in the hope that with skills and capabilities acquired could help to free them from poverty, open up job or business opportunities and at the same time reducing dependency on any assistance.

The Brunei Times