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Gladys and Roland Harriman Professor of Comparative Economic Systems, and Director, Center for Transition Economies, Columbia University

Richard von Weizsäcker Distinguished Visitor - Class of Spring 2015

Padma Desai is the Gladys and Roland Harriman Professor of Comparative Economic Systems and Director of the Center for Transition Economies at Columbia University. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Desai served as president of the Association for Comparative Economic Studies, in 2001, and as the United States Treasury’s Advisor to the Russian Finance Ministry, in the summer of 1995. Desai received her PhD in Economics from Harvard University, where she began her teaching career. She published extensively in professional journals on issues of economic planning in the Soviet Union before switching her research agenda to economic reforms in Russia and emerging market economies.


Among Desai’s publications are The Soviet Economy: Problems and Prospects (Oxford, 1987); Perestroika in Perspective: The Design and Dilemmas of Soviet Reform (Princeton, 1989); Going Global: Transition from Plan to Market in the World Economy (Editor) (MIT, 1997); Work Without Wages: Russia’s Nonpayment Crisis (MIT, December 2000). Desai’s Financial Crisis, Contagion, and Containment: From Asia to Argentina (Princeton, 2003) was described by Paul Krugman as the “best book yet on financial crises,” and her Conversations on Russia, a collection of interviews with distinguished Russian and Western policymakers and analysts on Russian reforms from Yeltsin to Putin, published by Oxford in April 2006, was selected by the Financial Times as the “pick of 2006.” In 2013, her memoirs, Breaking Out: An Indian Woman’s American Journey, were published in the US.


Desai has combined her scholarly activity with frequent contributions to the New York Times, Financial Times, and Wall Street Journal, as well as appearances on CNN, BBC, MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour, Debates-Debates, Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and the Charlie Rose Show.

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