The RBI has warned of risk of inflation crossing target of 5% for March 2017, in its third bi-monthly policy statement today.Risks to the inflation target of 5 per cent for March 2017 continue to be on the upside. Furthermore, while the direct statistical effect of house rent allowances under the 7th CPC’s award may be looked through, its impact on inflation expectations will have to be carefully monitored so as to pre-empt a generalisation of inflation pressures. In terms of immediate outcomes, much will depend on the benign effects of the monsoon on food prices, says the policy statement.The recent sharper-than-anticipated increase in food prices has pushed up the projected trajectory of inflation over the rest of the year, says the statement. Moreover, prices of pulses and cereals are rising and services inflation remains somewhat sticky. There are early indications, however, that prices of vegetables are edging down. However, going forward, the strong improvement in sowing on the back of the monsoon’s steady progress, along with supply management measures, augers well for the food inflation outlook. The prospects for inflation excluding food and fuel are more uncertain; if the current softness in crude prices proves to be transient and as the output gap continues to close, inflation excluding food and fuel may likely trend upwards and counterbalance the benefit of the expected easing of food inflation.
The statement adds: In addition, the full implementation of the recommendations of the 7th central pay commission (CPC) on allowances will affect the magnitude of the direct effect of house rents on the CPI. On balance, inflation projections as given in the June bi-monthly statement, i.e. of a central trajectory towards 5 per cent by March 2017 with risks tilted to the upside, are retained. According to the statement, the momentum of economic growth is expected to be quickened by the normal monsoon raising agricultural growth and rural demand, as well as by the stimulus to consumption spending that can be expected from the disbursement of pay, pension and arrears following the implementation of the 7th CPC’s award.
The passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill augurs well for the growing political consensus for economic reforms. While timely implementation of GST will be challenging, there is no doubt that it should raise returns to investment across much of the economy, even while strengthening government finances over the medium term. This should boost business sentiment and eventually investment. The current accommodative stance of monetary policy and comfortable liquidity conditions should also provide a congenial environment for the reinvigoration of aggregate demand conditions.
However, successive downgrades of global growth projections by multilateral agencies and the continuing sluggishness in world trade points to further slackening of external demand going forward. Accordingly, the GVA growth projection for 2016-17 is retained at 7.6 per cent, with risks facing the economy at this juncture evenly balanced around it.
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