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Biden has to tackle challenges of pandemic, economy, divided nation

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US President-elect has to tackle challenges of pandemic, economy and a divided nation

WASHINGTON: A raging pandemic. An economic crisis. A nation divided. Deep racial wounds.

Mr Joe Biden has his work cut out for him as he prepares to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States at around noon today (1am Thursday, Singapore time).

"What's unique for Biden is not so much the fact of crisis, it's the number of competing crises," said communications professor at Penn State University Mary Stuckey.

Perhaps the biggest is the coronavirus pandemic, which has left some 400,000 Americans dead.

"We have 4,000 Americans dying of Covid every day," said history professor at the University of Kansas David Farber.

"And the federal roll-out of the vaccine has been a disaster.

"So I think that's front and centre, and he's going to try to keep his mind focused on that."

Mr Biden has outlined a multi-pronged plan to combat the pandemic that includes expanded testing and contact tracing and vaccinating 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in the White House.



But the pandemic cannot consume all of the attention of the 78-year-old Biden, the oldest man to take the oath as president.

Not many American presidents have been met with an economic situation such as Mr Biden is inheriting, although a few of his predecessors faced even worse.

Mr Biden recently proposed a US$1.9 trillion (S$2.5 trillion) package, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, to revitalise the world's largest economy.

He also has to deal with a badly divided America.

Political science professor at Gettysburg College Shirley Anne Warshaw said the political polarisation in the US after four years under President Donald Trump presents an entirely different challenge.

"I've never seen us quite this divided," Prof Warshaw said of the chasm between Democrats and Republicans.

"It's going to be very hard for President Biden to actually bring those people into the political fold," she said, into the "normal realm of believing that government is working for them".

Then there is the distraction of Mr Trump's impeachment trial.

Mr Biden's first days in the Oval Office may be complicated by what happens with Mr Trump, who was impeached by the House of Representatives on Jan 13 and faces a potential trial in the Senate.

"That's going to just literally eat up time," Prof Farber said, "the time Biden needs to get his appointees in place, the time he could start some fundamental policy initiatives."

Mr Biden is also taking the helm of a nation that has been rocked by months of protests for racial justice following the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police.

"There's going to be a very large effort by the Biden administration to try and deal with that," Prof Warshaw said. "It's really been festering for years and years and years." - AFP