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Happy Birthday – Jagdish Bhagwati – Indian-American Economist and Free Trade Advocate

When he speaks on Economics, the whole world listens. Jagdish Natwarlal Bhagwati was born July 26th, 1924 in Mumbai but is now a naturalized American citizen. He has been a University Professor teaching Law and Economics at Colombia University. He is more recognized for his strong research on International trade as well as his strong advocacy for free trade. You may find it hard to believe that this very person, who was born in the days of the British Raj in India into a Gujarati family, could hardly speak a word of English till his initial college days.

His family was an illustrious one – his father N. H. Bhagwati had served as a Judge of the Supreme Court, his eldest brother P.N. Bhagwati was the Chief Justice of India and had been awarded the Padma Vibhushan while another brother of his S. N. Bhagwati, is a famous neurosurgeon. Jagdish Bhagwati himself was awarded the Padma Vibhushan for his illustrious contributions in the field of Economics in the year 2000. Even his wife, Padma Desai, is a world-renowned economist and a specialist on Russia, and the two have jointly compiled lot of work on Industrial Growth Planning in India.

After securing his Bachelors Degree in Commerce from Sydenham College in Mumbai, Bhagwati secured another Bachelors Degree in Economics from Cambridge in 1956 and then had a three-year education stint at Nuffield College in Oxford. He finally completed his PHD in Economics in 1961 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1961 under the supervision of Charles P. Kindleberger, post submission of his thesis named “Essays in International Economics”.

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Post his Doctorate, he returned to India and started teaching at the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata for a one-year period and then at the Delhi School of Economics for six years between 1962 and 1968. He, then, went back to his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught Economics from 1968 to 1980. He has also served in senior advisory roles in several world forums including the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.

Bhagwati has written a number of books and hundreds of articles that has always promoted Economic Globalization and Free Trade. Two of his most famous works are “Free Trade Today (2002)” and “In Defense of Globalization (2004)”. He is widely acclaimed to be the intellectual head behind the economics reforms that had been initiated in India, during the Prime Ministerial tenure of Manmohan Singh. Even as he turns 86 today, he continues to be a well-respected leader, who is able to lay down the guidelines for free trade, immigration and globalization in an astute manner.

Let us wish this renowned Economist a very Happy Birthday. His inputs will be of paramount importance to all world leaders, as they battle to contain the huge trade deficits, as a result of this COVID 19 Pandemic.

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