State Subsidized Hajj Will Sink Sri Lankan Economy – Analyst

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A basic Hajj pilgrimage including food and necessities costs upwards of $4,500 from Sri Lanka. Almost the entirety of this goes out of Sri Lanka as foreign exchange. If 160,000 makes the pilgrimage annually, the annual cost to Sri Lanka is $720 million. This is an enormous loss to the nation suffering a debt crisis, a forex crisis and a widening import-export gap which must be borrowed.

To put into perspective, this is many times more than the total cost of state-sponsored foreign trips of politicians and their relatives at all levels combined.

There is an election promise to subsidize the Hajj pilgrimage so that Muslims who can’t afford it now will be able to make it. If the numbers double as a result, a whopping $1.5 billion will leave the country. It will sink the Lankan economy irrecoverably as the nation is struggling to repay foreign loans and interest.

The above calculations exclude purchases made by Lankan pilgrims in foreign lands. Their purchases also amount to a few hundred million dollars in total.

This is also discriminatory. Government cannot subsidize the pilgrimage of just one creed. How about the Buddhists, Hindus and Christians? They too have foreign pilgrimages that are affordable only for a few. Buddhists must be subsidized in their pilgrimages to India, China, Bhutan, etc. Hindus should also get subsidized pilgrimages to a host of Hindu pilgrimages in India and Nepal. Christians must also get subsidized tour packages to the Holy Land, the Holy Sea and Fatima. Otherwise the move amounts to the violation of the Constitution.

To all political parties, please consider these facts before making election promises. It is not your money. It is the money of taxpayers who are already suffering economic problems.


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