New WB PH country director says: COVID-19 drags middle-class, poor

The coronavirus pandemic could drag down the middle-class economic security and poses a serious threat to the poverty reduction efforts, World Bank’s newly appointed chief supervisor for the Philippines said.

Ndiamé Diop, the new country director for the Philippines and other three southeast Asian countries, said the coronavirus disease is a risk to these nations’ economic reforms and accomplishments.

“I’m very excited to take this role of Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand,” Diop said. “These are among the most dynamic economies in East Asia with a strong track record of economic reforms and achievements.”

"The economic security of the middle class and the progress in poverty reduction are, however, being seriously threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.

On Wednesday, the World Bank announced the appointment of Diop, a Senegalese national, to oversee the lender’s operations in four East Asian countries effective July 1.

Diop, an economist, will also lead the World Bank’s policy dialogues with government counterparts, civil society, academia, private sector, and other partners as well as support the countries’ development agenda.

“I look forward to meeting our partners in government, civil society, the private sector, and development agencies to learn how the Bank can help cushion health, economic and social impacts of the pandemic and set the stage for a lasting recovery,” Diop said.

Earlier, the World Bank projected that the Philippine economy would shrink by 1.9 percent in 2020 due to coronavirus pandemic, noting the country together with Malaysia and Thailand will “experience the biggest contractions this year” in the East Asia and Pacific region.

“Mr. Diop brings to this new position 20-years of World Bank experience, working across East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa,” the Washington-based lender said.

Prior to his appointment, Diop was practice manager for macroeconomics, trade and investment for East Asia and the Pacific, providing technical and strategic guidance to the economic team working in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Diop was also lead economist for Indonesia, leading the economic policy dialogue and the World Bank’s advisory and development policy lending support for the country.

Earlier in his career, he worked as lead economist for Jordan and Lebanon and World Bank resident representative for Tunisia.

Diop joined the World Bank in 2000 as a young professional following the completion of his PhD in economics the same year.