That the Centre’s decision to withdraw high-denomination banknotes was going to impact economic activity in the short term was never in doubt. But the specific contours of the effects were probably a lot less understood at the time of that announcement. The deflationary shock has manifested itself in a deceleration in retail inflation, as demand for a range of goods and services has been damped. That the headline Consumer Price Index-based gauge hit a two-year low of 3.63 per cent for November is therefore no surprise, especially given the additional factor of a favourable base effect — the reading was 5.41 per cent in November 2015. The major contributor to the slowdown in price gains was the food and beverages group, where inflation eased to 2.56 per cent largely on the back of a slump in the prices of vegetables, a highly perishable commodity. But a closer look at the food group throws the spotlight on some trends that the Reserve Bank of India had flagged in its latest monetary policy review as areas of concern. Specifically, the prices of sugar and confectionery accelerated by 22.4 per cent while meat and fish and egg also reflected persistently elevated levels. The services sectors, including transport and communication and education, also manifested stickiness, underscoring the rationale for the RBI’s cautious approach in keeping benchmark interest rates unchanged.

Clearly, signals from the inflation data pose a conundrum before policymakers. With demand impulses taking a wide-ranging knock from the shortage of cash in the hands of consumers, proponents of policy accommodation would argue that the time is ripe for the RBI to cut borrowing costs to help impart some credit-fuelled economic momentum. But as the RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee itself articulated it on December 7, “while discretionary spending on goods and services in the CPI excluding food and fuel” could have been affected by restricted access to cash, the prices of those items may weather the transitory effects since they are normally revised according to preset cycles. More importantly, the MPC cautioned that food inflation pressures could re-emerge as a consequence of disruptions in agricultural activity as a result of the currency withdrawal. The spectre of upward price pressures from key components including food and fuel — OPEC’s output cuts are already pushing up crude oil — combined with the fading away of a favourable base effect could leave the RBI with little wiggle room to support growth. With the central bank’s March 2017 target for retail inflation of 5 per cent clearly in their sights, the monetary authorities may be persuaded to keep the powder dry.



1. Contours (noun) (आकृति) – an outline representing or bounding the shape or form of something 
Synonyms – delineation, curve 
Ex: The contour lines showing the heights above sea-level are the directions along which species spread to form zones. 

2. Manifested (verb) (व्यक्त)– show (a quality or feeling) by one's acts or appearance, demonstrate 
Synonyms – demonstrate, reveal 
Antonyms – disprove, cover 
Ex: It is in Spain that above all the new spirit manifested itself. 

3. Deceleration (verb) (मंदी)– lose velocity, move more slowly 
Synonyms – decline, drop 
Antonyms – increase, rise 
Ex: The train started on a journey of acceleration and deceleration with very little cruising in between. 

4. Damped (verb) (निस्र्त्साह करना)– make a fire burn less strongly by reducing the flow of air to it 
Synonyms – abate, consume 
Antonyms – advance, build 
Ex: Such a sequence of decreasing electric oscillations and corresponding set of waves is called a damped train. 

5. Slump (verb) (संयुक्त करना) – undergo a sudden severe or prolonged fall in price, value, or amount 
Synonyms – collapse, depriciation 
Antonyms – ascent, blessing 
Ex: The stock market is in a prolonged slump. 

6. Elevated (adjective) (ऊंचा)– situated or placed higher than the surrounding area 
Synonyms – inflated, formal 
Antonyms – depressed, insignificant 
Ex: Worry, but no elevated level of distress crossed her features. 

7. Conundrum (noun) (पहेली) – a confusing and difficult problem or question 
Synonyms – riddle, mystery 
Ex: Although the mechanic tried to identify the conundrum with the car, he was unable to pinpoint the issue. 

8. Proponents (noun) (समर्थकों) – a person who advocates a theory, proposal, or course of action 
Synonyms – advocate, defender 
Antonyms – enemy, opponent 
Ex: Because April loves animals, she is a fierce proponent of the animal rights movement. 

9. Articulated (adjective) (व्यक्त) – having two or more sections connected by a flexible joint 

Synonyms – speak, pronounce 
Antonyms – ask, listen 
Ex: The president is known for his ability to articulate his thoughts in front of millions of people. 

10. Discretionary (adjective) (विवेकाधीन) – available for use at the discretion of the user 

Synonyms – elective, leftover 
Antonyms – nondiscretionary 
Ex: The president of each house has the discretionary power of appointing additional laymen, not exceeding ten in number.
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