Foreign Affairs minister expects fairer treatment with Biden-led administration

The world looked on yesterday as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as president and vice president of the US during an inauguration that marked several historic firsts. Biden (far right) became the oldest president in US history, while Harris (second from left) is the country's first female vice president, as well as the first Jamaican American and American of South Asian descent voted into the office. Also pictured are Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff and Biden’s wife Jill. (Photo courtesy LA Times)
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By Elesha George

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Immigration, Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister, EP Chet Greene is hoping that the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, and Vice President (VP) Kamala Harris, will mean fair treatment for smaller economies like Antigua and Barbuda.

Greene focused heavily on the hoarding of Covid-19 vaccines by larger countries, which he said created immense pressure on the economies of smaller states.

His expectation is that this new administration will curtail the growing threat which places Antigua and Barbuda in a precarious situation, particularly as the country is largely dependent on the tourism industry.

The value of a vaccine is paramount, he surmised, adding that the situation is “easily one of the most frightening developments of present time”.

The Minister said, “The notion that large countries, which for the most part are the developers of the vaccines, are hoarding the vaccines to the exclusion of small nations, only foretells the kinds of problems we’ll have going forward, because without the vaccine, our countries are left wide open to further economic degradation, not to mention the health challenges that will persist.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also expressed concern, saying that its COVAX facility had only been able to secure less than half of the doses it needed to supply uncompetitive nations.

Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called it a “catastrophic moral failure” that he said will be paid with lives and livelihoods in poorer countries.

The Minister himself quoted the late Dr Martin Luther King who said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane,” adding, “it is simply inhumane that they would hoard and hold on to the manufactured vaccines. It’s almost placing us in an existential danger or danger zone where the lives of poor people, in poor countries, small countries, don’t matter.”

He stressed, “We can only hope that the incoming Biden administration would, in a real way, address that inequality, that vexing, troubling, inhumane approach to the development, and distribution of the vaccine which is so important, not only to the survival of economies but life itself.”

Greene said that he also remains hopeful that the Biden-led administration will “piggy back” on some of the policies that he was a part of creating when he served as VP under the Barack Obama administration.

That, he expects, will include normalising relations with Cuba and Venezuela and recognising those nations’ sovereignty.

Acknowledging that the Biden administration takes office at a time when the American economy is also under pressure, Greene said, “We’re hoping that there’s some global leadership where the availability of vaccines is concerned.”

He said that “Biden is called upon to correct some of the evils and ills of the previous administration of Donald Trump. It’s going to be a tough time, a tough undertaking, but I believe he has the experience, and that counts for something.”

However, residents here said they expect little from the new administration, which they believe will be similar to the previous regimes that have ignored the Caribbean people by using restrictive policies.

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