Padma Desai, Gladys and Roland Harriman Professor of Comparative Economic Systems and Director of the Center for Transition Economies at Columbia University, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She was President of the Association for Comparative Economic Studies in 2001. She was U.S. Treasury’s Advisor to the Russian Finance Ministry in the summer of 1995. She received her Ph. D. in economics from Harvard University in 1960 where she began her teaching career.
Professor Desai has published extensively in professional journals on issues of economic planning in the Soviet Union before she switched her research agenda to economic reforms in Russia and the emerging market economies. Her latest writings focus on the globalization of these economies and their exposure to financial crisis.
Among her publications are Marxism, Central Planning and the Soviet Economy (Editor) (The MIT Press, 1983); The Soviet Economy: Problems and Prospects (Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1987, a collection of her econometric essays subsequently published in 1990 as paperback); Perestroika in Perspective: The Design and Dilemmas of Soviet Reform (Princeton University Press, 1989, subsequently published in its fifth printing in 1990 as a revised paperback edition (Indonesian and Korean translations); Going Global: Transition from Plan to Market in the World Economy (Editor) (The MIT Press, 1997; second printing in 1999; Chinese translation); and (jointly with Todd Idson) Work Without Wages: Russia's Nonpayment Crisis (The MIT Press, December 2000). Her Financial Crisis, Contagion, and Containment: From Asia to Argentina (Princeton University Press, 2003; Chinese translation and Indian edition) was described by Paul Krugman as the "best book yet on financial crises." 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 University Press in April 2006, was selected by the Financial Times among a few select books as "pick of 2006."
Her From Financial Crisis to Global Recovery will be published by Columbia University Press in the Spring of 2011. Penguin Books India will publish her memoirs, Breaking Out: An Indian Woman's American Journey
Professor Desai has combined her scholarly activity with frequent writings in the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal, and appearances on the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour, CNN, BBC, Debates-Debates, Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and the Charlie Rose Show.
Professor Desai is married to Jagdish Bhagwati, University Professor at Columbia University. Their daughter, Anuradha Kristina, a cum laude graduate of Yale University in English Literature, was a Commanding Officer with the rank of a Captain in the School of Infantry in the United States Marine Corps. She subsequently graduated with a Master of Public Policy degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in May 2006. She is the Executive Director of Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), a voluntary organization that looks after the interests of servicewomen in the U.S. military.