US President Joe Biden signed a historic US $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package heralding a path-breaking measure that sets very high standards for the world while showing it the way out of the pain of the pandemic as well as the economic recession that came in its wake. There is something for everyone in the plan, from vaccination eligibility for every American by May and the promise of normal family gatherings by July 4 and the reopening of schools. Considering how his predecessor Donald Trump had mishandled the Covid-19 crisis into making America the worst sufferer, Mr Biden has not just tread a truly effective path; he has chosen the best possible response to a global crisis.
The American Rescue Plan, passed despite partisan resistance from Republican legislators, would take total Covid-related expenditure on public health and the economy from December 2020 to nearly $3 trillion or 14 per cent of pre-pandemic GDP. This puts in the shade what Barack Obama’s administration did after the economic crisis of 2008. At a time when the Democrats were in a majority in the House as well as the senate, the US had come up with a less than US $1 trillion response to the sub-prime induced economic crisis. This massive fiscal stimulus plan emphasises that the only way to get our life back and get the economy back on track is to beat the virus even if only time can tell whether the inflation risk is worth the gamble.
What Mr Biden left unsaid in his optimistic speech on the anniversary of the day Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic was what the US is going to do about the millions of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine sitting idle in its manufacturing facilities because it is yet to get FDA clearance whereas 70 countries have authorised its use already and many, including EU countries, desperately need vaccine doses. Also, the prioritising of the Pfizer vaccine has meant the US has clamped down on export of certain inputs that are inhibiting its manufacture in India, the world’s largest vaccine “fill-finish” manufacturer. Mr Biden can do even more to help the world rid itself of the pandemic.