Five priorities for Poland

By Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of OECD
The bell at the Warsaw Stock Exchange (photo by Kirtan Bhana)

1 February 2021

Before the pandemic, Poland’s economic performance was stellar: living standards were converging rapidly to the levels of the most advanced OECD countries, and the unemployment and poverty rates were at historically low levels, and well below the OECD average. As elsewhere, the COVID-19 crisis sharply disrupted the country’s development path. However, Poland has done well at limiting economic losses so far and we expect GDP to fall by 3.5% this year before rebounding by 2.9% in 2021 and 3.8% in 2022.

Thanks to fiscal and monetary support, the downturn was smaller than in most OECD countries. Direct fiscal support – such as emergency funds for healthcare and assistance for households and firms – will amount to around 5.2% of GDP in 2020. Taking into account also the so-called “Financial Shield”, notably comprising credit guarantees, the government has offered about 10% of GDP in direct or indirect fiscal support. The Central Bank reduced its policy rate to 0.1%, and introduced unprecedented quantitative easing. If economic conditions weaken again, the authorities should ease fiscal and monetary policies further.

African countries united in COVID-19 response

1 February 2021

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the COVID-19 pandemic as a health, humanitarian, social and economic crisis, which African countries are responding to collectively.

“COVID-19 has affected all the countries on the continent. To date, there are more than 3.5 million confirmed cases in Africa, and more than 88 000 people have died. It has been a health, humanitarian, social and economic crisis for African countries, most of whom are inadequately resourced to manage a health emergency of this size,” said the President in his weekly newsletter.

In the letter on Monday, the President reflected on South Africa’s term as Chair of the African Union (AU), which comes to end later this week.

South Africa assumed Chairship of the AU in the same month that the first case of COVID-19 was reported on the African continent.

India sends vaccines to South Africa
South African Consul-General Andrea Kühn was present at the loading of the vaccines destined for South Africa

31 January 2021

As promised by South Africa’s Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, the first shipment of 1 million doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII) left the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai on 31 January 2021.

Andrea Kühn, South Africa’s Consul-General in Mumbai together with members of the Consulate attended the send-off and they extended South Africa's deep appreciation and gratitude to the exceptional and professional support rendered by the government of India, the SII, Mumbai International Airport Cargo, Expo Freight Private Limited (EFL) and Emirates Airline.

Consul-General Andrea Kühn said, “This is a historical event and in the spirit of solidarity and enduring friendship, this consolidated the deep friendship and strategic partnership between South Africa and India”.

Vietnam – 35 years of innovative development

Party General Secretary and State President Nguyen Phu Trong delivers the 12th Party Central Committee’s Political Report and documents to be submitted to the CPV's 13th National Congress.

by Kirtan Bhana

The acknowledgment that the people are at the heart of the developmental success of Vietnam’s emergence is the basis of the 13th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam. The grand opening of the Party’s deliberations was attended by 1,587 delegates that represented more than 5.1 million members at the National Convention Centre in Hanoi, the legendary capital city on January 26, 2021. The delegates will reflect on the outcomes of the renovation of a nation, the policy of Doi Moi (renewal) which transformed the country to follow a path of socialist orientated market economics.

2020 can be considered the most challenging year in the build up to the 13th National Congress. As the viral Covid-19 pandemic spread across the world it has caused many deaths and affected the health of many more. Further, it has affected human activity, and in some instances, brought it to a complete standstill. The pandemic has impacted the livelihoods of many people as global value chains have been disrupted and some totally destroyed. Vietnam’s response to the pandemic has been exemplary and commended by the World Bank for acting with urgency to reduce the spread of the virus and minimizing deaths and illness caused by the virus even though it shares a border with China, where the virus was first discovered.

India’s Vaccine Diplomacy: Combating Pandemic, the India Way
(Image by

by Manish Chand

26 January 2021

It was a shining moment of pride for over 1.3 billion people of India, and an emotional moment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he launched the world’s largest vaccination drive on January 16. Broadcast live on the national television, the much-awaited vaccine roll-out has ignited optimism anew about a healthier and happier future. The vaccination drive has been tracked closely in the world as the “Made-in-India” vaccines promise deliverance from the lethal curse of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed millions around the world.

”It takes years to prepare vaccines. But in the shortest span of time, we have not only one but two India-made vaccines,” PM Modi said while showering praise on Indian scientists who worked tirelessly to make what seemed impossible possible. The sheer scale of India’s vaccination drive is staggering: by the second phase, India hopes to inoculate over 300 million people, which exceeds the population of Britain, France, Germany and Italy combined. “There are only three countries in the world with more than 30 crore population: India, the US and China. Hence, this is going to be the biggest vaccination drive,” PM Modi said.

President Ramaphosa asks rich countries not to hoard COVID-19 vaccines

26 January 2021

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says poor countries desperately need COVID-19 vaccines as much as other nations that have already started vaccinating their citizens.

“We are all not safe if some countries are vaccinating their people and some countries are not vaccinating,” said President Ramaphosa on Tuesday.

The President did not hold back as he raised concerns about vaccine nationalism during a virtual State of the World Address at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos Dialogues.

“The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines from developers and manufacturers, and some countries have even gone beyond and acquired four times what their population needs,” he said.

According to the President, this was done to the exclusion of countries in the world that also need the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine.

A Self-reliant India

26 January 2021

President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday addressed the nation on the eve of the 72nd Republic Day of India. In his address to the nation, President Kovind thanked the farmers, soldiers, and healthcare workers for their contributions. He also lauded the scientists for their work during the pandemic saying, "from space to the farms, from educational institutions to hospitals, the community of scientists has enriched our life and work. Our scientists have been working day and night for decoding the Coronavirus and they have succeeded in developing the vaccine in record time. With this accomplishment, our scientists have added a glorious chapter of contribution to the well-being of humanity. Our scientists, along with doctors, administrators and people from other walks of life, have made major contribution in containing the virus and keeping the fatality rate lower in our country, compared to that in developed countries. Thus, all our farmers, soldiers and scientists deserve special appreciation and a grateful nation greets them on this auspicious occasion of the Republic Day."

Gallant Mthembu mourned

25 January 2021

President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the passing of Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, as a great tragedy, particularly at a time when government is striving to return to a path of integrity, selfless service and transformation.

Mthembu, who passed away on Thursday due to COVID-19 related complications, was laid to rest at Pretoria Memorial Park Cemetery on Sunday.

In a moving eulogy delivered at the official funeral service held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Ackerville, Mpumalanga, President Ramaphosa said Mthembu worked ever so hard on a daily basis to advance the cause of his political home, the African National Congress. He gave selflessly of his time and energy to the government he swore to serve, the Constitution he pledged to defend and protect, and his greatest loyalty was reserved for the country and its people.

The African Asian Neighbourhood

25 January 2021

A book launch and an online discussion hosted by The Diplomatic Society brought together several experts on international relations to share their experiences and knowledge on regional cooperation within the African Asian paradigm. SAARC, the South Asian Association for regional Cooperation, an eight country bloc, the African Union (AU) with 55 countries, Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) with ten countries and IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association) with 22 countries, cover 95 countries and is home to around half of the world’s population at 3.6 billion people. Connectivity and cooperation between people and nations has significant sway in the geo political and socio economic context.

In his observation as the moderator of the discussion, Founder and Editor of The Diplomatic Society, Mr Kirtan Bhana observed a shift in international relations pointing to three poignant events of the last two decades of the new millennium. The first was the September 11, 2001 attacks in the USA. This devastating act sounded alarm bells for a drastic change in geo-political and social interaction. The other is the 2008 financial crisis which exposed the stark imbalance in the needs of humanity and the supply and demand value chains. Now we are confronted by the Covid-19 global viral pandemic, having not yet completely resolved the previous crises. Humanity, it seems, is in drastic need for innovation in international relations.

Kazakhstan Parliamentary Elections: An Important Step in Kazakhstan’s Path to Democratization

by Alberto Turkstra, Project Manager, Diplomatic World Institute

21 January 2021

On the occasion of the 2021 parliamentary elections, Diplomatic World Project Manager Alberto Turkstra visited Nursultan (Kazakhstan) from January 8 – January 11. In Nursultan, the author met with representatives of the various political parties participating in the elections, members of the Central Election Commission, the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies and the National Council of Public Trust. On the day of the election, several polling stations were visited in addition to the press briefings of international observers.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and severe winter weather conditions, Kazakhstan successfully organised its legislative elections in strict observance of all sanitary requirements. The first parliamentary elections since President Tokayev came to power following the 2019 presidential election, they represented an important occasion to elect a new parliament which will help guide the future direction and further reforms of the country in all spheres.

Egypt and South Africa: A shared vision towards a sustainable strategic relationship
Ambassador of Egypt to South Africa, Ahmed El Fadly, and his Spouse Habiba Abdelrazek (left) and Ambassador-Designate of South Africa to Egypt, Ambassador Ntsiki J. Mashimbye, and his Spouse Khanyi Mashimbye (right)


14 January 2021

Ambassador of Egypt to South Africa, Ahmed El Fadly, and his Spouse Habiba Abdelrazek hosted a lunch in honor of the new Ambassador-Designate of South Africa to Egypt, Ambassador Ntsiki J. Mashimbye, and his Spouse Khanyi Mashimbye ahead of their departure to Cairo on Friday, January 14, 2021.

The two Ambassadors discussed the importance of the bilateral relations that have steadily improved since 1993 and how to strengthen it further through closer co-operation, given the unique standing of Egypt and South Africa in the continent as the largest economies in northern and southern Africa, respectively.

"The current relations between Egypt and South Africa neither reflect the depth of the historical relation between the two countries, nor its potential. The event was a chance to discuss ways and means of advancing the bilateral relations to a higher sustainable strategic level," Ambassador El Fadly said.

WIT announces the 2021 Shortlist

Brussels, January 11, 2021

Wholistic World Innovation Trophy – WIT – announces the shortlist of nom-inees for its first ever season in 2021:
• Design Beku (India)
Inclusive design, aimed at exploring how technology and design can be decolonial, local and ethical
• Indigital (Sydney)
Connects teaching of digital skills with cultural education, specifically cultural heritage of in-digenous people
• SumArth (India)
SumArth/MICROX Foundation is a non-profit social enterprise headquartered in Gaya, Bihar, India, aimed at supporting farmers in their economic growth
• Vion Lab (Sweden)
Specialises in Content Discovery, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. It analyses content to optimise the media recommendation and advertising experience for SVOD

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