Padma Desai
Gladys and Roland Harriman Professor of Comparative Economic Systems, Columbia University

Padma Desai participated in the World Leaders Forum event, Where is Russia Headed?, in April 2007.

Padma Desai is the Gladys and Roland Harriman Professor of Comparative Economic Systems in the Economics Department at Columbia University. The director of the Center for Transition Economies at Columbia, she is an elected member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She was president of the Association for Comparative Economic Studies (2001) and U.S. Treasury's advisor to the Russian Finance Ministry (1995). She is regarded as a leading scholar today on the Soviet Union and Russia, while her writings extend also to the problems of other transition and emerging market economies.

Her main books with leading publishers include Marxism, Central Planning and the Soviet Economy: Economic Essays in Honor of Alexander Erlich (ed) (The MIT Press, 1983); The Soviet Economy: Problems and Prospects (Blackwell, 1987); Perestroika in Perspective: The Design and Dilemmas of Soviet Reform (Princeton University Press, 1989); Going Global: Transition from Plan to Market in the World Economy (ed) (The MIT Press, 1997); and jointly with Todd Idson Work Without Wages: Russia's Nonpayment Crisis (The MIT Press, 2000). Her book, Financial Crisis, Contagion, and Containment: From Asia to Argentina (Princeton University Press, 2003) was described by Paul Krugman as the "best book yet on financial crises." Her book, Conversations on Russia: Reform from Yeltsin to Putin (Oxford University Press, 2006) was selected as a "Pick of 2006" by the Financial Times and her C.V. Starr Lecture on it at the New York Law School was taped and broadcast by C-Span Book TV.

Her professional articles have appeared over the years in leading scholarly journals such as the Quarterly Journal of Economics, establishing her reputation as the pioneer in the analysis of the Soviet economy with the aid of econometric techniques. Her most recent article on the Russian economy in the American Economic Review continues this rigorous tradition.

The great scholar of the Soviet economy at Harvard, Abram Bergson said, "Among students of the Soviet economy, Padma Desai is noted not only for her Russian expertise but for her concern for technical rigor," calling her collected essays in 1987 "a masterly volume." Martin Weitzman, then of MIT and now at Harvard, wrote: "Professor Desai is one of the rare few who know how to weave numbers, statistical analysis, economic theory, and institutional features into a coherent fabric of new and exciting design." Her policy writings are distinguished by theoretical and econometric rigor which she uniquely combines with a thorough grasp of the historical and political context within which economic analysis must be set. As a result, she has avoided the un-nuanced Russia-bashing indulged recently by many in the Western media and equally the technocratic trap that the earlier academic "shock therapists" fell into.

She has combined scholarly publications with frequent writings in The Wall Street Journal (where she published her latest op.ed. on "Putin and Progress" in January 2007), The New York Times and the Financial Times and many appearances on CNN, BBC, Bloomberg TV, and television shows such as, Debatesdebates, The MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, The Jim Lehrer News Hour, and The Charlie Rose Show.

She is married to Jagdish Bhagwati, University Professor of Economics and Law at Columbia University. They have one daughter, Anuradha Kristina, who graduated cum laude in English literature from Yale University, was in the U.S. Marine Corps for five years, she has a master's from Kennedy School at Harvard University, and is currently writing a novel.


Participated In

Where Is Russia Headed?

Date: April 27, 2007 from 1:15 PM to 3:00 PM
Location: Low Memorial Library
The question, "Where Is Russia headed?" has become
a central preoccupation on the world stage. Is Russian democracy at bay? Is a
new Cold War beginning? This forum brings together world-class U.S. scholars,
journalists, diplomats, and Russian leaders to discuss these issues frankly.