How can we reduce poverty in the developing world?
One of the most influential trade theorists of his generation, Jagdish Bhagwati is a professor of economics at Columbia University and a Senior Fellow in International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. From 1991-1993 Bhagwati was an Economic Policy Advisor to Arthur Dunkel, the Director of GATT. For the World Trade Organization, he has been an External Advisor to the WTO and has served on the Expert Group on the Future of the WTO appointed by the Director General. Bhagwati has been a Special Advisor to the UN on Globalization. He was also on the Advisory Committee to Secretary General Kofi Annan on the NEPAD process in Africa, and a member of the Eminent Persons Group under the chairmanship of President Fernando Henrique Cartoso on the future of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
Bhagwati is the recipient of several prizes and honorary degrees, including Gold and Silver Stars from Japan's Order of the Rising Sun and the Padma Vibhushan from the government of India. The author and/or editor of over fifty volumes and over three hundred articles, Bhagwati's articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The New Republic and The Times Literary Supplement. He founded the Journal of International Economics in 1971 and another journal, Economics & Politics, in 1989.
His most recent books are In Defense of Globalization (2004) and Free Trade Today (2002); his early books, particularly India: Planning for Industrialization (1970) and India (1975) opened the doors for current economic reform in India; on these reforms he was advisor to India's Finance Minister, now Prime Minister.
Bhagwati has delivered lectures at many top educational institutions and appeared on television shows including the MacNeil Lehrer News Hour, the Charlie Rose Show and Bloomberg. He is a director of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Fellow of the Econometric Society, a member of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association, on the board of the Academic Advisory Board of Human Rights Watch, Asia and on the Council of the Economic Priorities Accreditation Agency. The recipient of many awards, among them the Mahalanobis Memorial Medal, the Bernhard Harms Prize, the Kenan Prize, the John R. Commons Award, the Freedom Prize and the Frank E. Seidman Distinguished Award in Political Economy, he has been awarded honorary degrees from several universities.
Jagdish Bhagwati graduated from Cambridge University in 1956 and continued his studies at MIT and Oxford. Before joining the faculty at Columbia, he was a professor at the Indian Statistical Institute, the Delhi School of Economics, and MIT.
Jagdish Bhagwati: There’s nothing like a single magic bullet, I’m afraid. I think if we had one, we would have found one by now.
We need a concerted attack on several dimensions, actually. We have always been aware of institutions in my opinion. As I said back in ’62, President Kennedy thought of this. As our systems have evolved, we are very different today in terms of institutions from 50 years ago in the west, for example.
Russia is also moving into a different set of institutions and so on. And these tend to evolve.
Part of the problem, of course, is trying to set up institutions more rapidly. It’s like, you drop them from outside, will they take root? What life will they develop on their own? So these are complex questions. But that institutions are important, there’s no question about it. And policies are important.
I would say that one way to look at it is to say what can we at our end; because this is something which all the enlightened leadership of the rich countries is interested in. What can we do to help the poorer countries, right?
You might call it the Bono problem, but it’s a much older problem than that. Of course Bono can sing, right? It’s nothing that appeals to me. I’m too old-fashioned. But huge numbers of people. He can raise the money, but what he does with the money is really the question we are asking. So how do we spend the money?
Let me put it this way. So far by offering trade opportunity, letting multinationals go more freely into some of these countries – and that’s their own country’s policies which have changed in this regard – I think on the whole, East Asia has managed to do pretty well. I don’t think we need to do anything for India, China, even the other parts of East Asia. Because they have grown rapidly, and there is enough evidence that that growth, as I hoped and recommended to my boss at the Indian Planning Commission, that has actually pulled people out of poverty both in India and China. It’s not the only thing, because there are other things also – the policies which are alongside this
So that, I think, it’s taken care of. And the first thing which the World Bank should do is to stop lending to India, China, Brazil, all these countries. They’re big enough. And if they don’t grow, and if they don’t do good things, that’s their responsibility.
Recorded On: Aug 14, 2007
There is no single magic bullet to reduce poverty in the developing world.
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