Liberian Lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Monrovia have for the past three weeks been discussing the 2012/2013 National Budget. One issue that may be of surprise to the 3.5 million Liberians across the country and those in the diaspora is the decision of the Liberian Senate to push for the allotment of sixty-thousand U.S Dollars for its newly formed soccer team referred to as the Senate FC in the current budget.
The decision was a result of a letter to the Senate’s Plenary by Senator Jonathan Barmey of Rivercess County requesting that ‘honorable’ body to do so. Senator Barney, also Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Youth and Sports, said in his communication that because the establishment of the Senate FC is to unify the people around the country, it was important to put aside the money in the budget for its upkeep.
The Senate’s Committee Chairman on Ways, Means and Finance, Senator Sumo Cupee of Lofa County also backed the suggestion, commending his Rivercess colleague for the move, as well as suggesting that the communication be forwarded to his committee for immediate action. Perhaps to play the devil’s advocate, the President Pro-Temporary of the Liberian Senate, Milton Findley of Grand Bassa County cautioned that though it was necessary for the Senate to engage in extra-curriculum activities, Senators would have to be mindful about how to proceed with the issue of setting aside money for the Senate FC.
Truly enough, our brothers and sisters representing us at the Liberian Legislature must be mindful about how they go about making decisions on the budget. Just a few days following the submission of the budget, some senators recommended the allotment of a huge sum of money for their mid-term election campaign in 2014.
Regrettably, Senator Barney’s claim that the establishment of the Senate FC was to promote unity among Liberians across the country may just be unjustifiable. If there is any football team in Liberia to classify as a unifier, it must be the national team, the Lone Star. Unlike the Senate FC, the Lone Star always attracts Liberians of diverse backgrounds despite its dismal performances in recent times.
It would have been preferably better had Barney pushed for separate budgetary allotments for our national teams, including the Lone Star soccer team, other than being so emphatic on something that is very, very insignificant to national unity. The Liberian Senate could support Senate FC from its operational budget as done by the various ministries and agencies of government.
If and only if the Senators are sincere and serious about promoting unity among Liberians, they must first begin with motivating salaries and benefits for civil servants, especially for nurses, midwives and medical practitioners, as well as security personnel. This must be the primary focus of our honorable Senators at the moment on Capitol Hill, and we do appeal to their wisdom.
While the Ministry of Finance and its Budget Committee may have deliberately disregarded issue of civil servants, it was now incumbent upon them to prove that they are indeed the true representatives of the people by acting now. Funding for the sustainability of Senate FC should come from the operational budget of the Liberian Senate.
The fear we may be expressing is that the House of Representatives may also want an allotment for its soccer team, “FC Representatives”; the Judiciary could also push for an allotment for its football team,” Judiciary FC”, while the Executive Branch would give itself a fabulous allotment for its own club,” Executive Lions”. The Liberian Senate must take the lead in making commendable decisions, other than delving into such matter as allotting US$60,000.00 for Senate FC which is none impact-making as far as fostering national unity is concerned.
The Liberian Senate must be pleaded with in reconsidering its decision to allot the money. We beg them. Let them think about adding more money to the salaries of civil servants, as well as increasing subsidies to universities and hospitals across the country.