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Pushan Dutt Professor of Economics and Political Science Shell Fellow of Economic Transformation Fellow, Asian Bureau of Finance and Economic Research

I am a Professor of Economics and Political Science at INSEAD. I have a Ph.D. in Economics from New York University, a Masters in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics, and a Bachelors degree in Economics from Presidency College, Calcutta.

My research interests lie at the intersection of international trade, economic development, and politics. I have looked at the importance of ideology and inequality for trade policies, the importance of regional trading arrangements and the WTO for trade, and the various impediments to trade. Another stream of research has a developmental focus and examines issues related to governance, political instability, democracy, inequality, microfinance, poverty, and development. A third stream of research examines the role played by international trade and technological change in accelerating inequality between skilled and unskilled workers. Currently, I am working on a project on microfinance in Sri Lanka and a project on the rise of Chinese exports.

At INSEAD, I teach microeconomics (Prices & Markets) and game theory in the MBA and EMBA programs. I also teach multiple modules on Game Theory, Economic Growth; Natural Resource Curse; Rise in Inequality; FDI policy; Financial Crisis to executive audiences in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. I have directed one program for the Economic Development Board of Singapore and a program for the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore, called Firefly. I also co-direct one of the flagship open enrollment programs at INSEAD targeted at senior executives called Leading Business Transformation in Asia. I won the Best Teacher Award for the MBA core class 8 times in the last ten years.

In addition, I have worked at the World Bank's Latin American and Caribbean Division and the Development Research Group and as a writer for Oxford University Press. I helped Aral/BP in their bid for gas stations in Germany.

I write occasional pieces for The Conversation, on LinkedIn, and my blog.

Economics of COVID

The Long Road: Singapore as a case study

Lives vs. Livelihoods Debate: Economic effects of coronavirus lockdowns

International Trade & Trading Arrangements

Trade Wars by Trump

Interviews: CNBC1; CNBC2; CNBC3

The Conversation Japan-South Korea Dispute

Faculti Interview WTO vs. Regional Trade Agreements

The WTO has a bigger impact on bilateral trade in the long-run compared to regional trade agreements

ASEAN challenges Q&A Session at ASEAN Connect

What can countries in ASEAN learn from Singapore?

The Paradox of Protectionist Populist INSEAD Knowledge

Most Americans support free trade. So what accounts for the protectionist rhetoric of a populist president?

Who Suffers in a Trade War? INSEAD Knowledge

Risks of a trade war between US and China. Are they real? Which sectors and countries are likely to be most affected?

Is the TPP Dead? CNBC Interview

Will the recent attempt to revive TPP, following the US exit, work?

Challenges and Opportunities for ASEAN, Channel News Asia Interview

What are the challenges for different countries in ASEAN?

ASEAN Connect Keynote Address, ASEAN Connect 2017

The next 50 years for ASEAN

Who Benefits from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) CNBC Interview

The EU has more to gain than does the US from TTIP.

Does the WTO Matter? VOXEU

The WTO ‘dodged the bullet’ week when members agreed to continue working on the deadlock holding up the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations. We survey the evidence on the trade effect of WTO membership and show that membership raises the range of goods that members export – increasing it by an estimated 42%. We conjecture that the WTO boosts trade by reducing uncertainty in the mind of potential exporters regarding the evolution of international trade rules.

When Corruption Boost Trade VOXEU.

Does reducing corruption increase trade? While corrupt customs officials extorting bribes from exporters may impede trade, those who take bribes to circumvent formal trade barriers may help it. This column estimates that when tariffs exceed 25%, the pro-trade effects of corruption may dominate.

The Death of Distance is Greatly Exaggerated! INSEAD Knowledge

Barriers to global trade may be lower, but they still remain difficult to overcome for countries with less historical, legal or cultural ties and especially those far apart from each other. Experience in trade matters and can reduce costs and boost exports. Temporary export promotion can have long-lasting effects.

Doha Still The Way to Go Article and Video INSEAD Knowledge

In the absence of agreement on the Doha round of trade talks, Asia has embarked on a host of bilateral and region-to-region trading arrangements which have increased trade complexity. This has given rise to a noodle bowl of trade arrangements. But these are reversible. In contrast, a global deal is safer and more sustainable.

Inequality & Politics

Unproductive shareholder vs. stakeholder debate

What is democracy good for? Faculti Interview

The unending debate on democracy vs. dictaorship and

From Inequality to Immortality INSEAD Knowledge

The socio-political implications in a world where Death itself is not equal.

Understanding Populism: Inequality by the Numbers INSEAD Knowledge

The sudden rise of populist politicians iN US and Europe can be traced to the rise in inequality. As one segment of the population gets left behind in globalization race, in the skill race, and by technological changes, a populist backlash emerges. This populist was a long time coming, as data on income inequality demonstrates.

What Are Trump’s Promises Really Worth? INSEAD Knowledge

Trump made heroic promises to his base of poorer, older, and rural voters to tackling inequality via trade restrictions, changes to healthcare, more jobs, and restrictions on immigration. Basd on the record so far, his base may have misjudged Trump by taking him “seriously but not literally.”

What Really Matters Is Poverty, Not Income Inequality INSEAD Knowledge

How we can use tools of machine learning to understand whether we should worry more about inequality at the top (the rise in share of 1%) or inequality at the bottom (the share of people who live in poverty). We find that for emerging markets tackling poverty is far more effective than focusing on inequality at the top.

How The Rich Got Richer… and What Politicians Are Doing About It INSEAD Knowledge interview

The perils and drivers of inequality in rich countries.

Does Democracy Help or Hinder Growth? INSEAD Knowledge

Comparing the economic performance of China with its restricted political rights to democratic India have led many to conclude that democracies may be a hindrance to growth. We show that while the relationship between and growth rates is non-existent, democracies dominate in the sense that they help guard against extreme outcomes.

India Burma Ties

The Future of Management

A series of blog posts by Benjamin Kessler of INSEAD Knowledge about how changes in culture and technology are reshaping what managers do. Professor Phanish Puranam and I decide on the content and play an advisory role.

  1. Algorithms to Decode Organizational Culture
  2. The Future of Work
  3. Why AI’s Video Game Supremacy Matters for Managers

Financial Crisis

Marketing in a Downturn INSEAD Knowledge article and interview

In stable environments, a pricing mistake is not very important. But in a crisis, it’s a matter of life and death. You’d better get your pricing right.


My work focuses on three components of institutions, that are integral to the development of emerging markets.

1. Political instability

That political instability is detrimental for economic growth and investment is widely accepted. However, political instability is a catch-all for a host of factors including coups (successful and unsuccessful), revolutions, political assassinations, riots, protests and sometimes, even a measure of dictatorship. These discrete components have varying underlying causes and more importantly, different consequences for economic policies and outcomes. At the same time, not all coups and revolutions are equal - some lead to real changes in the political system while others leave the underlying political system unaffected. Sometimes there are also subtle and incremental changes in political rights and political competition, absent a coup or a popular revolution. My work constructs a new measure of political instability which captures fluctuations in the degree of democracy. It encapsulate movements from dictatorship to democracy and vice versa but not government changes that preserve the democratic or dictatorial structure of the country. It also picks up any incremental changes in political rights in a country over time. We show that such instability implies volatile polices. [paper]

2. Corruption

I have multiple papers in this domain. The first one shows that corruption interacts with formal trade barriers and has twin effects in terms of extortion and evasion. When trade barriers are low, corruption is extortionary and impedes trade. However, when trade barriers are low, corruption, by facilitating evasion of formal trade barriers can actually encourage trade. A second links interventionist trade policies to corruption. A third highlights the multiple equilibria nature of corruption, which renders the link between higher wages for bureaucrats tenuous - high wages may fail to discourage corruption. Recently, I have also been examining whether firms can learn to cope with corruption over time.

3. Democracy

Prior research has found that democratic institutions are not strongly related to economic growth - studies find frail positive, negative or no association between the two. In stark contrast, several researchers have documented a strong and robust link between democracy and growth volatility. While this observed empirical correlation between democracy and volatility is very strong, the theoretical counterpart to explain the mechanisms underlying the negative correlation is less well developed. I investigate policy choices in a world where the quality of available policy alternatives is uncertain. I show that the variance of the quality of chosen policies is decreasing in the extent of dispersion of decision-making authority. When an autocrat unilaterally choosing policies is replaced by a committee of policy-makers who vote over available alternatives, the larger number signals used in the latter decision process allows the committee to choose policies with greater precision and regularity. Lower policy volatility, in turn, implies lower output volatility. I document this link empirically as well. [paper]

Inequality and Poverty

I have examined the phenomenon of inequality from multiple angles. First, I show that while inequality increases political instability, the impact of inequality affects most significantly one component of political instability - the oscillation between democratic and autocratic regimes [paper1; paper 2]. In the context of trade policies, I show that politicians are responsive to inequality - they adopt more pro-labor policies when inequality increases [paper]. Another paper links globalization to the widening gap in wages between skilled and unskilled workers - as globalization triggers an increased threat of imitation, firms respond to that threat by biasing the direction of their innovations towards skilled labor-intensive technologies. This widens the wage gap between skilled and unskilled workers. My recent work shows that in developing economies, policymakers should focus more on poverty rather than overall inequality. This stands in stark contrast to the near universal focus in advanced economies on the top 1% share in income [paper].

A recent project extends my prior research on institutions and development by specifically looking at the role of financial institutions in economic development and poverty alleviation. In particular, we are interested in microfinance, an alternate that emerged to serve the poor and under-banked. We have been working closely with a microfinance organization with operations in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Cambodia for the past year and a half. The first paper examine the differential impact of micro loans by loan purpose. While loans targeting income generation do in general exhibit better outcomes, these outcomes are at least as good for loans specifically funding traditional means of rural livelihood as for microenterprise loans. Within microenterprise loans, the outcomes are even worse for starting than growing microenterprises, pointing towards lack of complementary resources and skills as a bottleneck. These findings suggest a need to temper the emphasis on funding microenterprises as a preferred way of alleviating poverty [paper].


I examine how consumers in emerging markets respond to a crisis. Following a crisis, in emerging markets, consumption expenditure by more than income and the decline persists longer. This implies greater weight given by consumers in these countries to the precautionary motive of saving, during a crisis. I also identify the categories and sub-categories that benefit from consumption smoothing in a crisis. [paper]

Program Direction

Executive Education Programs I Direct at INSEAD

Open Enrolment: Leading Business Transformation in Asia

Company Specific: McKinsey-INSEAD Business Basics Programme (2007, 2008); Firefly Program, Economic Development Board, Singapore; EDB-BMP Programme, Singapore; SKF


MBA/EMBA courses I teach at INSEAD

Prices & Markets (MBA and EMBA)

This course provides the tools and concepts that are relevant to managerial decision making. We touch upon supply and demand; production and costs; pricing strategies; competition between industry participants; strategic decision-making and decision-making under uncertainty. Economic fundamentals, like demand, cost, market competition, and government policies, are critical to strategic decisions on issues relating to pricing, capacity management, new market entry, exit decisions, to name just a few. The microeconomic concepts and tools have many applications beyond those treated explicitly in the course; we see such applications, for example, in subsequent marketing, strategy, and finance courses. In fact, the primary objective of this course is to provide the basic tools that will be repeatedly applied in subsequent core and elective classes at INSEAD.

Some MBA Microeconomic tools that I have found entertaining.


Strategic Thinking With Game Theory (MBA and EMBA elective)

Game Theory offers a systematic approach to strategic decision making that helps in identifying the right alternatives and choosing among them. The biggest win comes from not just understanding the game you are playing and choosing the right strategies, but most importantly, from changing the rules of the game to your advantage. Given the uncertain, complex, and interconnected worlds that we all inhabit, game theory is a powerful tool that for making informed decisions. Game theory is also a language that facilitates deeper dialogue about strategy, and communicating your view of the world, and your rivals’ view of the world. The main objective of this course is to familiarize you with game-theoretic concepts and tools that are critical to formulating more robust business strategies and to becoming better strategic thinkers.


Economics and Management in Developing Countries (MBA)

“Economics and Management in Developing Countries” is intended to provide future managers, expecting to work in or with developing countries, with an understanding of their current economic reality and future prospects of these nations. The course concentrates on the relationship between corporate management and the economic and social development of poor countries. It does not cover in detail the internal operational challenges of corporations.

There are three parts to this course. Part A provides a general introduction to the problems of development, and the implications of the international economic and political order. Part B addresses the role that private business and markets can play in promoting economic growth, stressing the activities of foreign investors. Part C looks at the specificities of poverty and the role of the private sector in solving this problem.


Executive Education modules I teach at INSEAD

The World After the Covid Shock: The world is undergoing a crisis, unlike anything it has ever experienced. At its heart, we are experiencing a healthcare crisis with various parts of the world succumbing in a staggered fashion. The closest parallel was the Spanish Flu 100 years ago. Even this parallel is inexact as demographic shifts, the rise of globalization, urbanization, and larger, more densely populated cities can facilitate a virus’ spread across the globe in a few days and weeks. Countries around the world have chosen to put their economies into deep freeze temporarily. How long the economic impact lasts depends singularly on how long the pandemic lasts. This, in turn, depends on epidemiological variables and health policy choices such as the effectiveness of isolation and quarantine measures, herd immunity, development of rapid serological tests, discovery of a vaccine, surge in healthcare capacity, etc. Even when the pandemic ends, resumption of normalcy is likely to be gradual. Policymakers, especially central banks and fiscal authorities, have a crucial role to play. In this session, we will discuss the relative efficacy of various policy measures to counter the contraction effectively and promptly. More importantly, we shall identify economic variables that should be closely monitored to prevent this crisis from morphing into a debt crisis, or a financial crisis, or a currency crisis. Finally, we will discuss policies that can ensure a quick recovery once the pandemic ends.

Game Theory: I teach half and full day modules on Game Theory; I cover simultaneous and sequential form games and their applications to business and policy situations; Participants, in groups, play repeated games using an INSEAD game simulation that provides insights into dynamic strategies, trust, and cooperation. I have taught this in the Asian International Executive Programme, and to participants from Alstom and Economic Development Board. I also designed a half-day module relating Game Theory to the financial crises

Understanding the Global Economic Landscape: I setup a framework to analyze the macroeconomic landscape and its evolution over time. I use this framework to understand the growth prospects of the world economy, assess the experiences of countries like Japan and Singapore, the economic success stories, as well as that of growth disasters such as Chad and Niger. Participants apply this framework to understand the challenges and the opportunities offered by China, India, Vietnam, and other new “growth” centers. I have taught this to participants from Shell, Petronas, McKinsey, Alstom, IBM, Google, Adidas, EDB, SKF, Rio Tinto, ABN-Amro, Mubadala and Ernst & Young

The Rise of Inequality: Growth of average incomes does not tell us much about how the fruits of growth are or should be distributed. Today, inequality as an issue is attracting the most attention from business leaders, policy makers, politicians and voters. In this session, I define inequality and initiate a broad discussion on whether we should even care about inequality. I next take a data and event driven approach to understand when and how inequality matters. I close with thinking through the policy tools to tackle inequality and the responsibility of businesses in this domain. Issues spanning ethics, economics, politics, and business are covered.

Doing Business in Risky Countries: I analyze the risks and challenges of doing business in really risky countries such as Chad, Nigeria, Angola, to name a few. I touch upon the natural resource curse, the Dutch Disease, environmental sustainability, and corporate social responsibility. I use project finance to assess and mitigate the risks. I have taught this to participants from Shell, Petronas, Mubadala, Rio Tinto, McKinsey, and Ernst & Young as well as in the International Executive Programme

Singapore's Growth Challenges: Singapore has been one of the remarkable growth success stories. But what does the future hold for Singapore and what are the key challenges facing Singapore going forward? This session does a deep dive into the key challenges facing Singapore going forward and the strategies needed to successfully meet these challenges. I identify Singapore’s key competitive advantage and how it can be sustained in a rapidly transforming world, Topics I cover include innovation, productivity-driven growth, demographics, health-care costs, immigration, the future of work and inequality

Consumer Behavior in a Crisis: Here we try to understand how businesses will be impacted in a crisis (currency or banking crisis). To understand this requires a fundamental understanding of the impact of the crisis on the consumption decisions of the firm’s consumers. It is the consumers’ decisions on consumption that translate into demand for the firm and thereby determines how badly a crisis is likely to hurt the firm. I use consumption smoothing as a tool to analyze this issue. I also analyze which sectors in which countries are likely to recover the fastest. I use a Crisis Simulation Tool that I designed with Paddy Padmanabhan to convey the key learning points. Participants are provided with a series of macroeconomic forecasts and have to make pricing, production and inventory decisions in 2 countries (one developed and one developing) in the midst of a crisis. I have taught this to participants from Google, Toshiba, IBM, and Economic Development Board and in the International Marketing Programme, Asian International Executive Programme, and a program on the financial crisis.

Understanding the Great Contraction of 2008-2009: I teach a half day module on the latest financial crisis. I touch upon two broad issues: imabalances and incentives. I analyze the buildup in global imbalances and the perverse incentives in the financial and housing sectors to diagnose the great contraction. I also spend time on the crisis in the Eurozone, the debt dynamics in the US, and the short-term macroeconomic outlook in India and China. I have taught this in the International Executive Programme

FDI Policy: I teach a half day module for policymakers interested in attracting and retaining MNCs.

Corruption: I analyze the causes, consequences and challenges of corruption and how businesses should operate in corrupt environments. I have taught this in Asian International Executive Programme, Shell, Petronas, and Building the Business: Strategies for Asia-Pacific.

Microeconomics: I teach 1 and 2 day modules of core microeconomic tools. These include demand, supply and applications; market entry and exit decisions; using the industry supply curve to understand volatility; pricing strategies especially price discrimination; game theory. I have taught this to participants from McKinsey and COFRA


PhD courses I taught in the past

Microeconomics I

International Trade


  1. Consumer behavior in a crisis (with Paddy Padmanabhan)
  2. Growth opportunities of countries (tailored report)

Case Studies

[Available from HBS Publishing or Case Centre]

The Rise of Inequality, INSEAD 2017.

The world is currently seeing a rise of populist leaders in both Europe and the US (Donald Trump), as well as in some emerging markets. Is this linked to the rise in inequality over time, whereby many of the gains have accrued to the richest 1%? This case sets up a discussion on why we should care about inequality. It explores the link between inequality and equality of opportunity, political instability, financial crises and economic growth. It closes by highlighting where businesses are truly a force for good and the circumstances in which a greater focus on distribution is warranted. The pedagogical objective is to facilitate an understanding of the interlinked issues of politics, economics, distribution and growth and the circumstances where business leaders must pay more attention to distributional aspects.

LOLC Micro Credit (with Jasjit Singh), INSEAD 2015.

LOLC Microcredit, a microfinance company within the LOLC group in Sri Lanka, has been serving the financial needs of the base of the pyramid through micro-leasing and group lending. The question now is whether to grow the exisiting business, use diversification to increase impact or prioritize its expansion into Myanmar. The case can be taught either as a microfinance case or as a strategy case.


The Elasticity of Demand for Gasoline, INSEAD 2015.

This exercise uses monthly data for the US from 1978-2013 to estimate a demand function for gasoline in the US. The demand function is used to calculate the price and income elasticity of demand, both in the short and the long run. The case can be used to teach the concept of elasticity by making students estimate elasticity of demand using data and regression analyses. Students use the data and built-in regression functions in Excel. Next, they estimate short and long-run elasticities to see that demand is much more price-inelastic in the short run. Instructors can build on these concepts to explain why oil prices tend to be so volatile in the short run.The exercise is useful for both MBA students and for students in an intermediate Microeconomics course. Included are a set of Powerpoint files to run the entire session/class and data for the gasoline exercise. Please see here.


Pushan Dutt

INSEAD Asia Campus
1 Ayer Rajah Avenue
Singapore, 138676
Tel: +65 6799 5498
Fax: +65 6799 5499
Email: [email protected]

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