Free Trade and Prosperity: How Openness Helps the Developing Countries Grow Richer and Combat Poverty. 2019, Oxford University Press. 

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Arguments for protection and against free trade have seen a revival in developed countries such as the United States and Great Britain as well as developing countries such as India. Given the clear benefits trade openness has brought everywhere, this is a surprising development. The benefits of free trade are especially great for emerging market economies.

Free Trade and Prosperity offers the first full-scale defense of pro-free-trade policies with developing countries at its center. Arvind Panagariya, a professor at Columbia University and former top economic advisor to the government of India, supplies a historically informed analysis of many longstanding but flawed arguments for protection. He starts with an insightful overview of the positive case for free trade, and then closely examines the various contentions of protectionists. One protectionist argument is that "infant" industries need time to grow and become competitive, and thus should be sheltered. Other arguments are that emerging markets are especially prone to coordination failures, they are in need of diversification of their production structures, and they suffer from market imperfections. The panoply of protectionist arguments, including those for import substitution industrialization, fails when subject to close logical and empirical scrutiny.

Free trade and outward-oriented policies are preconditions to both sustained rapid growth and poverty alleviation in developing countries. Panagariya provides compelling evidence demonstrating the failures of protectionism and the promise of free trade using detailed case studies of successful countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, China and India. Low or declining barriers to free trade and high or rising shares of trade in total income have been key elements in the sustained rapid growth and poverty alleviation in these countries and many others. Free trade is like oxygen: the benefits are ubiquitous and not noticed until they are no longer there. This important book is an essential reminder of the costs of protectionism.

Older books

The Making of Miracles in Indian States: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat (co-edited with Govinda Rao (May 2015, OUP, USA)


“Growth miracles typically have been studied at the country level. In The Making of Miracles in Indian States, internationally-renowned economists Arvind Panagariya and M. Govinda Rao bring together a team of six leading scholars to break from that tradition and study three growth miracles in India at the level of the state: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Gujarat. These are three large and diverse states in India: Gujarat has the third-highest per-capita income among the largest eighteen states, Bihar is the poorest, and Andhra Pradesh falls in the middle. Despite vast differences among the states, all three have grown at rates exceeding 8% for an entire decade in the twenty-first century.”  Read more on OUP’s website.

State Level Reforms, Growth and Development in Indian States (May 2014, OUP, USA)


“Most discussions of India's recent economic growth focus on progress and policies at the national level. But with a population of 1.2 billion, several of the states in India are larger than many of the countries in the world. Therefore, a more complete understanding of India's ongoing experiment in economic reforms requires a study at the state level.

State Level Reforms, Growth, and Development in Indian States provides the first-ever comprehensive analysis of growth and reforms in the highly diverse states of the country. The authors argue that when the national government loosened its controls on industry and services, state governments began shaping the fortunes of their citizens through state-level policy reforms, resulting in faster growth in every state over the last decade than any other decade in the post-independence era. In fact, some of the poorest states, notably Bihar and Odisha, have been growing the fastest.” Read more on OUP’s website.

Why Growth Matters (April 2013, Public Affairs, USA), co-authored with Jagdish Bhagwati)


“In its history since Independence, India has seen widely different economic experiments: from Jawharlal Nehru's pragmatism to the rigid state socialism of Indira Gandhi to the brisk liberalization of the 1990s. So which strategy best addresses India's, and by extension the world's, greatest moral challenge: lifting a great number of extremely poor people out of poverty?

Bhagwati and Panagariya argue forcefully that only one strategy will help the poor to any significant effect: economic growth, led by markets overseen and encouraged by liberal state policies. Their radical message has huge consequences for economists, development NGOs and anti-poverty campaigners worldwide. There are vital lessons here not only for Southeast Asia, but for Africa, Eastern Europe, and anyone who cares that the effort to eradicate poverty is more than just good intentions. If you want it to work, you need growth. With all that implies.” 

India’s Tryst with Destiny: Debunking Myths that Undermine Progress and Addressing New Challenges (January 2013) co-authored with Jagdish Bhagwati


Policy discourse in India tends to be dominated by assertions unsupported by facts, with the media indulging one and all without proper scrutiny. Often, the result is the creation and perpetuation of myths of all kinds. Thus, many believe today that poverty, illiteracy and ill-health afflict India because its leadership ignored them in favour of growth for its own sake; that the economic reforms that focused on growth have failed to help the poor, especially the socially disadvantaged; that any gains claimed in poverty alleviation derive from the use of progressively lower poverty lines; and that even if gains have been made, with one in two children suffering from malnutrition, reforms have done precious little to improve health outcomes.

In this definitive book on economic reforms in India since Independence, Bhagwati and Panagariya decisively demolish these and other myths, which critics use as weapons to wound and maim the reforms. Using systematic data and analysis, they forcefully show that once the debris of critiques of India’s reforms is cleared, it becomes evident that intensification of reforms that allows sustained rapid growth is the only way to lift millions out of poverty, illiteracy and ill-health. They argue that only growth can provide sufficient revenues for the provision of education and good health for the masses.

Reforms and Economic Transformation in India (October 2012, OUP, USA)


Reforms and Economic Transformation in India is the second volume in the series Studies in Indian Economic Policies. The first volume, India's Reforms: How They Produced Inclusive Growth (OUP, 2012), systematically demonstrated that reforms-led growth in India led to reduced poverty among all social groups. They also led to shifts in attitudes whereby citizens overwhelmingly acknowledge the benefits that accelerated growth has brought them and as voters, they now reward the governments that deliver superior economic outcomes and punish those that fail to do so. Read more at OUP’s website.

India’s Reforms: How They Produced Inclusive Growth (March 2012, OUP, USA)


When India embraced systematic economic reforms in 1991 and began opening its economy to both domestic and foreign competition, critics argued that they had contributed little to the acceleration of economic growth. Their argument had rested on the claim that growth in the 1990s was no faster than in the 1980s. This claim was quickly refuted on the grounds that when properly evaluated, growth had indeed accelerated in the 1990s and more importantly, while reforms had been made systematic in 1991, they had actually begun much earlier in the late 1970s. Subsequently, the reforms of the late 1990s and early 2000s have led to a jump in the growth rate from six percent in the 1990s to eight to nine percent beginning in 2003. The reforms have also led to a major structural change in the economy: the trade to GDP ratio has tripled since 1991, there has been a gigantic expansion of foreign investment in India, and sectors such as telecommunications, airlines, and automobiles have expanded at rates much higher than at any time in the past. This dramatic turnaround has led critics to shift ground. They now argue that opening the economy to trade has hurt the poor; that rapid growth is leaving socially disadvantaged groups behind; and that reforms have led to increased inequality. The essays in this volume take these challenges head-on. They use large-scale sample surveys and other data to systematically address each of the arguments.  Read more at OUP.

India: The Emerging Giant (March 2008, OUP, USA)


India is not only the world's largest and fiercely independent democracy, but also an emerging economic giant. But to date there has been no comprehensive account of India's remarkable growth or the role policy has played in fueling this expansion. India: The Emerging Giant fills this gap, shedding light on one of the most successful experiments in economic development in modern history.

Why did the early promise of the Indian economy not materialize and what led to its eventual turnaround? What policy initiatives have been undertaken in the last twenty years and how do they relate to the upward shift in the growth rate? What must be done to push the growth rate to double-digit levels? To answer these crucial questions, Arvind Panagariya offers a brilliant analysis of India's economy over the last fifty years--from the promising start in the 1950s, to the near debacle of the 1970s (when India came to be regarded as a "basket case"), to the phenomenal about face of the last two decades. The author illuminates the ways that government policies have promoted economic growth (or, in the case of Indira Gandhi's policies, economic stagnation), and offers insightful discussions of such key topics as poverty and inequality, tax reform, telecommunications (perhaps the single most important success story), agriculture and transportation, and the government's role in health, education, and sanitation.

The dramatic change in the fortunes of 1.1 billion people has, not surprisingly, generated tremendous interest in the economy of India. Arvind Panagariya offers the first major account of how this has come about and what more India must do to sustain its rapid growth and alleviate poverty. It will be must reading for everyone interested in modern India, foreign affairs, or the world economy.

Trade, Globalization and Poverty (edited with Elias Dinopoulos, Pravin Krishna and Kar-yiu Wong), 2007, Routledge [Essays in Honor of Jagdish Bhagwati]


An outstanding work, written to celebrate the seventieth birthday of Jagdish Bhagwati; the foremost defender of free trade and its role in developing economies in the world today, this rigorously academic and critical volume represents an important contribution to the understanding of many aspects of globalization. The editors, affiliated with four of the leading economics departments in the USA bring together a stellar line of contributors from across the world to discuss the themes and arguments raised by Bhagwati’s latest work.