MPDD Seminar Series on “The emergence of Asia and the world economy" by Prof. Amiya Kumar Bagchi, Emeritus Professor, Institute of Development Studies Kolkata

24 Sep 2013
Bangkok, Thailand

In 1947, when the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East came into being, practically all of Asia was in a mess. A civil war was raging in China, Japan was devastated by the war, and had a severe problem in feeding, clothing or housing its people. Wars for liberation from the ex-colonial powers were raging in Indo-China, especially Viet Nam, Indonesia and British Malaya. The subcontinent of India was partitioned, and witnessed some of the biggest communal riots and population movements in its history. All of these, even Japan at that point, were agrarian economies, with anywhere up to 90 per cent of the population engaged in agriculture. By 2011, China and Japan had emerged as the second and third largest economies in the world. Four other regions in East Asia had emerged as affluent countries, with the vast majority of the population currently occupied in industry or services.

Some of the economies had the fastest growth rates in the world. But the region still was greatly differentiated, with enormous numbers of people in South Asia, and other subregions suffering from poverty, illiteracy and ill-health, and denial of substantive freedom to women and other underprivileged groups in society, and the peoples of the Pacific island economies and many other regions were buffeted by frequent and intense natural disasters and ecological damage caused by human action. Inequality had also increased in most countries. The Economic (and Social) Surveys of the Far East (Asia and the Pacific) provide almost a blow-by-blow account of this transformation, and the continuing obstacles against the peoples of all the subregions enjoying the minimum conditions for a humane existence. They also by and large indicate the reasons for the success in East Asia and parts of South-East Asia and the failures in other subregions.

Land reforms, deliberate strategies for structural transformation, roles of literacy, and of the state and the market in particular contexts are taken up in various years of the Surveys. The talk will briefly touch upon the intellectual achievements of the Executive Secretaries and the Commission secretariat over this long, complicated and dramatic transformation, a transformation that remains as incomplete as the history of nearly two-thirds of mankind. The end of history, fortunately, is still not in sight.

This seminar on the emergence of Asia and the world economy was delivered by Amiya Kumar Bagchi, educated at Presidency College, Calcutta and Trinity College, Cambridge and holder of a PhD in Economics from the University of Cambridge in 1963. He has taught and researched in several institutions in India and abroad, including Presidency College, Calcutta, University of Cambridge, University of Bristol, Cornell University, Roskilde University, Trent University, Curtin University and Maison des Sciences des l'Homme. He was Reserve Bank of India Professor of Economics and Director, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta and founder-Director of the Institute of Development Studies Kolkata. He was the First Chancellor of Tripura University. He has on several occasions acted as consultant for the ILO, UNCTAD, UNDESA and UNESCAP. He is currently Emeritus Professor of Institute of Development Studies Kolkata and Adjunct Professor of Monash University.

His books include Private Investment in India 1900-1939 (1972), The Political Economy of Underdevelopment (1982), Public Intervention and Industrial Restructuring China, India and the Republic of Korea (1987), Capital and Labour Redefined: India and the Third World (2002), Perilous Passage:: Mankind and the Global Ascendancy of Capital (2005) and Colonialism and Indian Economy (2010), and a four-volume history of the State Bank of India (1987-1997). Two of his latest jointly edited volumes are: Capture and Exclude: Developing Countries and the Poor in Global Finance (2009) and Transformation and Development: the Political Economy of India and China in Transition (2012).