Pros and Cons Surround Use of Hajj Money for Infra Projects

Sunday, 30 July 2017 , 09:00:00 WIB - Politics

Hajj pilgrims are seen in Bogor, West Java, Friday (28/7) (ANTARA)

JAKARTA, GRES.NEWS – The government’s plan to use hajj payment money for infrastucture developments have spurred pros and cons.

The cons say the government must obtain an approval from the hajj pilgrims first and rumor is spread that the government is having difficulty acquiring loans for their infrastructure projects while the State Budget Deficit is mounting to near the maximum benchmark of three percent.

Crescent and Start Party (PBB) Chairman, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, said his party is among those against President Joko Widodo’s plan. "As an Islamic party, PBB is clearly against the use off hajj funds unilaterally, especially as there are no [profit sharing] calculations and compensations for the hajj pilgrims, as the owner of the funds," Yusril said, in a written statement sent to gres.news, Saturday (29/7).

Yusril added that the government should first consult the plan with the House of Representatives, Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) and Islamic mass organizations first to prevent another public polemic.

"The government may be having a hard time obtaining new loans, so they want to use hajj funds," he said.

MUI Vice Chairman, Zainut Tauhid Sa’adi, is also in agreement that the government should first discuss the plan with Islamic organizations, especially MUI, Islamic prominent figures and financial experts. They must also study the financial and sharia aspects of the plan thoroughly as it is not a small amount of money.

"One of the principles of fiqh is to prioritize prevention of damages first than creating benefits," Zainut said, Friday (28/7).

Economic expert, who is also a member of the honorary council of the National Mandate Party, Drajad Wibowo sais BPIH should take into consideration the critical political perception that will be created, considering that the fund belongs to Moslems.

"Aside the fact that they will not obtain any return from the investments, the Moslems will not be asked whether their fund can be used. This may create a political controversy," Dradjad said.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla explained that the hajj funds that will be used will be down payments from people who have applied to take a hajj pilgrimage, but they may have to wait up to 10 years in the waiting list – many even have to wait for 30-35 years before their turn arrives.

The Vice President said that the funds, which are denominated in the US dollar, are in risk because exchange rates change. "If we don’t invest the funds into profitable infrastructure projects, which are usually funded in the US dollar, the funds will drop in value due to inflation, and spending power may drop. Therefore, we must invest them in the palm oil industry or infrastructure projects," he said.

Jusuf Kalla assures that the in investments will be save and estimates an annualized return of 15 percent from the investments.

Based on data from the Ministry of Religion, the total hajj funds year-to-date has reached Rp83.2 trillion. (dtc)

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