To set the interview in context, Brian Snowdon first traces out some important landmarks in twentieth-century Russian/Soviet Union history. In the conversation that follows, Professor Desai gives her views on a number of key issues relating to the decline of the Soviet system and problems of Russia’s transition to a market economy. Recently, Freedom House has suggested that Russia is at a ‘crossroads’ with respect to its fledgling liberal democracy and market economy. Therefore, also discussed are the prospects for survival of democracy and markets in the new Russian ‘liberal’ order. In the first part of the interview, Professor Desai also comments on the influence of socialist ideas on India’s growth and development strategy.
Padma Desai is Gladys and Roland Harriman Professor of Comparative Economic Systems and Director of the Center for Transition Economies at Columbia University. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, was President of the Association for Comparative Economic Studies in 2001, and 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 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. 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); "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" (Editor) (The MIT Press, 1997); and (jointly with Todd Idson) "Work Without Wages: Russia’s Nonpayment Crisis" (The MIT Press, 2000). Her "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 latest book (2006), "Conversations on Russia", a collection of interviews with distinguished Russian and Western policymakers and analysts on Russian reforms from Yeltsin to Putin, is published by Oxford University Press. Professor Desai has combined her scholarly activity with television appearances and frequent writings in the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal. She is married to Jagdish Bhagwati, University Professor at Columbia University.
Brian Snowdon is Professor of Economics at Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK. His main research interests are in the areas of macroeconomics and international growth and development. As well as articles in academic journals, he has published numerous books in the area of economics including: "Reflections on the Development of Modern Macroeconomics" (with H. R. Vane, Edward Elgar, 1997); "A Macroeconomics Reader" (with H. R. Vane, Routledge, 1997); "Conversations with Leading Economists: Interpreting Modern Macroeconomics" (with H. R. Vane, Edward Elgar, 1999); "Conversations on Growth, Stability and Trade" (Edward Elgar, 2002); and "An Encyclopaedia of Macroeconomics" (with H. R.Vane, Edward Elgar, 2002). His most recent co-authored book with Howard Vane, "Modern Macroeconomics: Its Origins, Development and Current State", was published by Edward Elgar in March, 2005. He is currently working on a new book, entitled "Globalisation, Transition and Development".