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By Kadeem Joseph

Health economist Dr Stanley Lalta has warned that the economy of Antigua and Barbuda and other countries in the region cannot survive for “very much longer” without the availability of the vaccine to help in the return to normalcy.

Dr Lalta, who was speaking during Sunday’s Big Issues programme, said several businesses have already closed their doors, governments are stretched, revenues are falling, and expenditure is rising, signalling that “we are very close to the edge”.

“Can government pay workers? Can government pay other benefits? Social Security organisations are stretched; they may be paying benefits, but is the money coming in?” he queried.

The health economist also highlighted the tourism industry and the dependence of many countries in the region on the sector for economic growth and stability.

“Some countries like Antigua, 80 percent of the economy spins around what happens in tourism and with that trimmed so significantly, one can only imagine what has been that total impact,” he explained.

Dr Lalta said, internationally, countries are growing tired of giving money to other nations which is another factor that must be considered, with major financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund realising their limits.

“If the big countries have to think about what they are doing to their own populations, with very limited amounts left for developing countries, then we are really in a state,” he said.

The health economist is also painting a gloomy outlook for at least the first three months of 2021, projecting “more hardship and pain” for countries in the Caribbean.

Dr Lalta said based on data from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, economies have collapsed with a projection that the total decline for 2020 projected to be 15 percent.

He said this setback would take these countries back to where they were in 2011/2012 economically, which is a “major setback”.

He believes Antigua and Barbuda and the rest of the region have no other choice but to use vaccination as a tool to come to grips with the social and economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.