Despite low oil prices, India may not gain much. Here’s why


Vivek Kaul

Oil prices have been falling for a while now. The price of the Indian basket of crude oil as on December 10, 2014, stood at $63.16 per barrel. At the beginning of this financial year, as on April 1, 2014, the price had stood at $104.56 per barrel. Hence, prices have fallen by close to 40% since then.
Analysts expect that oil prices will continue to remain low in 2015. In a report titled
2015: It Likely Gets Worse Before It Gets Better analysts at Morgan Stanley give three possible scenarios for the price of oil. In the worst possible scenario they expect the price of oil to touch $43 per barrel in the second quarter of 2015 (i.e. the period between April and June 2015).
As the Morgan Stanley analysts write: “ With OPEC on the sidelines, oil prices face their greatest threat since 2009…Without intervention, physical markets and prices will face serious pressure, with 2Q15[April to June 2015] likely marking the peak period of dislocation.”
As I have explained on previous occasions the Saudi Arabia led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries(OPEC) is interested in driving down the price of oil to ensure that shale oil firms operating in the United States and Canada become unviable. This is why OPEC hasn’t cut oil production majorly in recent months, even though oil prices have fallen dramatically.
The conventional thinking is that a fall in oil prices will benefit India tremendously. A major reason for the same is that India imports nearly four fifths of the oil that it consumes. Hence, a fall in oil prices will mean that there will be lower oil imports and this will mean a lower trade deficit (i.e. the difference between imports and exports).
Further, lower oil prices will also mean lower inflation and a lower fiscal deficit for the government. Fiscal deficit is the difference between what a government earns and what it spends. In the years gone by, the government did not allow the oil marketing companies to sell diesel, cooking gas and kerosene oil, at a price that was viable for them. The government compensated these companies for a part of the under-recoveries.
This led to the government expenditure shooting up which pushed up the fiscal deficit. While this sounds good in theory, things are not as straightforward as they are made out to be. Neelkanth Mishra and Ravi Shankar of Credit Suisse discredit this argument in their recent research report titled
2015 Outlook: Growth at any price?
Let’s look at these points one by one.
The government had budged Rs 63,426.95 crore as oil subsidy for this financial year. This as always has been the case in the past was a very optimistic assumption, given that a significant part of the oil subsidies for the last financial year were unpaid. The oil subsidies that had not been paid for during the course of the last financial year amounted to Rs 35,000 crore. This has been paid from this year’s budget. Given this, despite a dramatic fall in oil prices there isn’t going to be a huge impact on the fiscal deficit. If oil prices continue to remain low during the course of the next financial year (April 2015 to March 2016) it will benefit the government on the fiscal deficit front, feel the Credit Suisse analysts.
What about inflation? Petrol and diesel together make up for around 2% of the consumer price index. Over and above this, the government has raised the excise duty on petrol and diesel twice in the recent past. This has reduced the “passthrough to consumer prices”. Hence, consumers haven’t benefited as much as they should have.
Further, “LPG[domestic cooking gas] and kerosene, which have higher weights[in the consumer price index],are still subsidised, so the fall in crude will not directly impact retail prices,” write Mishra and Shankar.
Now let’s look at the trade deficit or the difference between imports and exports. Oil imports in the month of October 2014 fell by 19% to $15.2 billion in comparison to the same period last year. Despite this, the overall trade deficit for the month rose to $13.3 billion from $10.6 billion a year ago.
Why is that the case? With global growth slowing down, exports slowed down by 5% to $26 billion. Further, India seems to have rediscovered its appetite for gold with gold imports rising by 280% to $4.17 billion from $1.09 billion in October 2013.
So, despite falling oil prices India may not gain much immediately. Also, falling oil prices mean lower incomes for oil exporting countries and this will slow down their consumer demand, which will have an impact on Indian exports.
Professor Eswar Prasad of Cornell University
explained this in an interview to CNBC. As he said: “Right now if oil goes to USD 65 or even slightly lower it is not a big negative but it does imply that there is going to be a lot of weakness in external demand and countries in Latin America like Venezuela which already have a very difficult situation, emerging markets like Russia and of course the Middle Eastern countries plus some of the European economies like the UK and Norway that rely on oil exports to a significant extent are going to be facing fairly difficult situations. This will affect their budgets and their current account balances which in turn will affect their consumption demand. So, softness in consumption demand is ultimately not good for anybody in the world including India.”
Neelkanth Mishra of Credit Suisse also made a similar point
in an interview to The Economic Times. Mishra’s argument was that if oil exporting countries earn lower, their sovereign wealth funds will invest a lower amount of money in other countries, including India.
As he said: “Further, capital flows get impacted, too — if you look at the sources of funds that invest in India, it’s primarily the sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), the pension funds and the insurance funds. If Norway, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, or Kuwait are not going to see the kind of surpluses that they used to then they will have less capital to send out, which will mean that capital flows into India will not be as strong as they were.”
Norway, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia run the three biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world.
To conclude, what these points clearly tell us is that a fall in oil prices will not benefit India as much as it is being made out to be.

The article originally appeared on on Dec 11, 2014

(Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek) 

Inflation dips, but here’s why Indians don’t believe it will stay low

deflationHere is the good news—the inflation as measured by the consumer price index for the month of October 2014 came in at 5.52%. It was at 6.46 % in September 2014 and 10.17% in October 2013. The price of food products which make up 42.71% of the consumer price index rose by 5.59% in October 2014, in comparison to the same period during the previous year.
A major reason for the fall in inflation has been a global fall in food prices.
The Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index averaged at 192.3 points in October 2014. It was lower by around 0.2% in comparison to the September number. In comparison to a year earlier, food prices fell by 6.9%. Global food prices have now fallen for seven months in a row, and this has been the longest slide since 2009.
While food prices on the whole haven’t been falling in India, vegetable prices fell by 1.45% during October 2014 in comparison to October 2013. Interestingly, they had risen by 45.7% in October 2013 in comparison to October 2012. Cereal prices during the month went up by 6% in comparison to 12% a year earlier. Also, only two food products showed an increase in price of greater than 10%. The price of milk went up by 10.8% and the price of fruits went up by 17.5%.
Nevertheless, food prices might start rising again. The government has forecast that the output of
kharif crops will be much lower than last year and this might start pushing food prices upwards all over again. As the Business Standard reports “As per very preliminary estimates, India’s food grain production in 2014-15 kharif crop season is expected to be around 120 million tonnes, nearly 9.5 million tonnes less than last year, but officials have said that there could be a further downward revision in the estimates as arrivals gather steam from middle of November onwards.”
And this could push up prices in the days to come. As As Rupa Rege Nitsure, Chief Economist,
Bank Of Baroda told Reuters “recent data shows that towards the end of October we have seen spikes in vegetable prices as well as in cereal prices because of delayed monsoon. So there’s a big question of sustainability of these readings.”
Falling food inflation has come as a big relief given that half of the expenditure of an average household in India is on food. In case of the poor it is 60% (NSSO 2011). Over and above this a fall in global oil prices has also helped. Fuel and light inflation in October 2013 was at close to 7%. In October 2014, the number came in at 3.3%.
Hence, it can clearly be seen that there has been some relief on the inflation front.
For more than five years, inflation in general and food inflation in particular was very high. High inflation ate into the incomes of people and led to a scenario where their expenditure went up faster than their income. This led to a cut down on expenditure which was not immediately necessary.
With food inflation coming down, this should leave more money on the table for people to spend and at least theoretically should lead to a revival of consumer demand and hence, industrial activity. It is worth remembering here that when people cut down on expenditure, the demand for manufactured products falls as well. This is in turn reflected in the index of industrial production (IIP).
The IIP for the month of September 2014 was 2.5% higher in comparison to September 2013. This is a little better than the IIP for the month of August 2013 which was only 0.4% higher in comparison to August 2013. The IIP is a measure of the industrial activity in the country.
The manufacturing sector which forms a little over 75% of the IIP, grew by 2.5% during the course of the month. The number had fallen by 1.4% in August 2014. Hence, there seems to have been some recovery on this front. Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely that recovery will sustain in the months to come.
As Nisture put it “What really matters is that all other indicators of economic activity actually have slowed in the month of October, whether it is PMI, or credit demand or auto sales. So I don’t think that today’s reading of industrial production is sustainable.”
Further, what is worrying are the consumer goods and the consumer durables sectors. The numbers representing these sectors are both down in comparison to last year. When we look at the IIP from the use based point of view it tells us that consumer durables (fridges, ACs, televisions,computers, cars etc) are down by 4% in comparison to September 2013. The consumer goods are down by 11.3%.
What this clearly tells us is that despite falling inflation, people still haven’t come out with their shopping bags.  When consumers are going slow on purchasing goods, it makes no sense for businesses to manufacture them.
Why is that the case despite falling inflation? A possible explanation is the fact the wounds of a very long period of high inflation still haven’t gone away. People are still not ready to believe that low inflation is here to stay. Hence, inflationary expectations (or the expectations that consumers have of what future inflation is likely to be) are on the higher side.
As per the Reserve Bank of India’s Inflation Expectations Survey of Households: September – 2014, the inflationary expectations over the next three months and one year are at 14.6 percent and 16 percent. In March 2014, the numbers were at 12.9 percent and 15.3 percent. Hence, inflationary expectations have risen since the beginning of this financial year.
The only possible way to bring them down is to ensure that low inflation persists in the months to come. Only then will people start to believe that low inflation is here to stay. And once that happens, it won’t take much time for some consumer demand to return. As Shivom Chakrabarti, Senior Economist at HDFC Bank told Reuters “The real improvement in industrial production will be seen next year when inflation comes down, which will spur consumer spending and exports will be higher.”

The article originally appeared on on Nov 13, 2014

(Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek) 

Lessons for govt from a Mumbai taxi driver: Why inflation is killing growth


Vivek Kaul

Sometimes it takes a small nudge to start doing what might later seem obvious. A few months back I happened to read Nicholas Epley’s Mindwise—How we understand what others Think, Believe, Feel and Want. Epley is a professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
In this book Epley writes that “isolating activities like commuting are some of the least pleasant of any day.” “Not only is isolation unpleasant, it is bad for your health as well.” Hence, he goes on to suggest that it always makes sense to communicate with your fellow commuters or in case of taxicabs, the drivers.
“In fact, the positive effect of talking to one’s taxi driver is particularly large. Perhaps because taxi drivers come from interesting and varied backgrounds, they seem to make especially pleasant conversational partners, at least for the length of your ride…The stories I get are fascinating, the conversations are almost always interesting, and my experience is consistently better than if I had simply stared out of the window instead…Your ability to engage with minds of others is one of your brain’s greatest abilities. You’ll be happier if you actually use it,” writes Epley.
After reading this book I have “nudged” myself in the direction of trying to have a conversation with the taxi-driver, every time I use a taxicab. Late last night I was coming back home after having dinner and starting talking to the driver. Over the last few weeks the conversation usually starts around the recent increase of the minimum cab fare in Mumbai from Rs 19 to Rs 21. And then it goes off in different directions.
Yesterday night was not different from the usual except for the way the driver reacted. He was of the opinion that the decision to increase the minimum fare from Rs 19 to Rs 21 was a stupid one and that the taxi union hadn’t been doing its job properly. The response intrigued me, given that this was the first time I came across someone who did not seem to be happy at the prospect of a higher income in these inflationary times.
I asked him to explain in detail what he meant. “Main to kehta hoon minimum pandrah rupaiye kar dena chahiye, (I think the minimum taxi fare should be reduced to Rs 15),” he immediately responded. This intrigued me further. “Log taxi le nahi rahe hain. Kaafi samay khaali baithe rehna padta hai (People are not taking taxis and for long periods of time I am just sitting idle),” he continued.
And then he went on to explain that at a lower fare he would get more customers, wouldn’t have to sit idle for long periods of time during the day and would in the process end up making more money, even though the amount of money he would make per kilometre would be lower. Sometimes wisdom strikes you at the most unlikely of places. Last night I had that kind of a experience.
High inflation has been the bane of this country over the last five years. And that has hit all kinds of people including the taxi-driver I was talking to last night. When fares are raised, it means a higher price for hiring a cab for the end consumer. And he or she is not always ready to pay for that. Hence, an increase in taxi fare, which is basically inflation for the end consumer, leads to loss of business for the taxi-driver.
The way it works for the taxi-driver at the individual level, also works for the society as whole at a much broader level. As prices rise, people cut down on the consumption of non-essentials. Due to high inflation people have had to spend more money on meeting daily expenditure. Food inflation in particular has been greater than 10% over the last few years, and has only recently started to come down a little.
Given this, people have been postponing all other expenditure and that has had an impact on economic growth. Anyone, with a basic understanding of economics knows that one man’s spending is another man’s income, at the end of the day. When consumers are going slow on purchasing goods, it makes no sense for businesses to manufacture them.

This is reflected in the index of industrial production, which is a measure of the industrial activity within the country. Numbers released yesterday by the Central Statistics Office showed that for the month of July 2014, the index of industrial production grew by a minuscule 0.5% in comparison to July 2013. This was largely on account of a slowdown in manufacturing, which forms nearly three-fourths of the index of industrial production. It contracted by -1%. Many sectors within manufacturing like tobacco, apparels, paper and paper products, communication, publishing, furniture etc, contracted majorly.
This is worrying given that the expansion of the manufacturing sector remains India’s best bet to create jobs at a fast pace, for its semi-skilled workforce. And manufacturing cannot be turned around unless inflation is brought under control, so that consumer demand revives, and in turn encourages businesses to increase production of goods. Interestingly, August 2014 saw a major revival in car sales with sales going up by more than 15%.
Along with the index of industrial production, the Central Statistics Office also released the consumer price inflation number, yesterday. Inflation in August 2014 stood at 7.8%. This was a tad lower in comparison to the inflation in July 2014, which was at 7.96%. The inflation in July 2013 had stood at 9.52%.
While this is clearly good news, the worrying bit is that food inflation continues to remain high at 9.42%. In July 2014 the number had stood at 9.36%. In August last year, the number had stood at 11.11%. “In the case of food articles, price pressures were seen building up in pulses, condiments & spices and milk & milk products. Inflation in each of these categories has been rising for the last 3 months,” Crisil Research pointed out in a research note yesterday.
As I have often pointed out in the past, half of the expenditure of an average household in India is on food. In case of the poor it is 60%. If consumer demand is to be revived then food inflation needs to be brought under control.
Analysts believe that consumer price inflation will continue to fall in the months to come. A major reason for this is the fall in global oil prices. “A significant decline in petrol prices (Rs 5.4 per litre since July in Mumbai) due to lower crude oil prices globally, is also likely to have contributed to the downward price pressures in transport & communication. We expect this to continue going forward as no further hike in diesel prices is expected as long as crude oil prices stay at current levels,” Crisil Research points out.
On the flip side, a weak monsoon has led to the build up of “inflationary expectations” (or the expectations that consumers have of what future inflation is likely to be). And this could play a spoiler in reviving consumer demand.
In the long run, other than bringing down inflation the government needs to carry out structural reforms in order to revive Indian manufacturing. As Crisil Research points out “Incremental policy measures and bureaucratic improvements that the new government has taken in its first 100 days to improve the ease of doing business, has had a positive impact on business sentiments. However, it will take some time for these to translate into growth. While these are critical to lift growth in the short-term, the government needs to move forward with structural policy reforms such as implementation of GST (Goods and services tax), easing labour laws, rationalisation of fiscal subsidies, and amendment of land acquisition norms, to maintain the growth momentum beyond this year.” And that is easier said than done.
The article originally appeared on on Sep 13, 2014

(Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek)

The risk of high food inflation hasn't gone away yet



Vivek Kaul 

Consumer price inflation(CPI) for the month of June 2014 came in at 7.31%. This was the lowest since January 2012. Wholesale price inflation(WPI) for the month of June 2014 had come in at 5.43%, which was a four month low.
A major reason for the fall in overall inflation has been a fall in food inflation, which as measured by the CPI, stood at 7.90% during the month of June 2014. In May 2014, the rate had stood 9.4%. In June 2013, the rate was at 11.84%.
Food inflation has been controlled to some extent due to several steps taken by the Narendra Modi government, which was sworn into power in May 2014. The government has set limits on the export of staples like onions and potatoes. It also decided to sell 5 million tonnes of rice in the open market.
These steps have obviously helped in the near-term. But how do things look over the next few months? The
India Meteorological Department in a press release dated July 11, 2014, pointed out that the“rainfall activity was deficient/scanty over the country as a whole” for the period between July 3 and July 9, 2014. This deficiency of rainfall was at 41% of the long period average.
This delay in rainfall has led to a 51% annual decline in the sowing of
kharif crops. What this means is that there will be an impact on their production in the months to come, which is likely to lead to a price rise.
When it comes to rice and wheat, the government has enough stock to ensure that it can prevent a rise in their price. As on July 1, 2014, the Food Corporation of India,
had a food grain stock of close to 69 million tonnes, which is much more than the strategic reserve that it needs to maintain. A part of this stock can be sold in the open market, in case the lack of adequate rainfall has an impact on the production of food grains, in the months to come.
But the government does not have the same option when it comes to vegetables and fruits. WPI data suggests that vegetable prices fell by 5.89% in June 2014, in comparison to a year earlier. CPI data suggests that vegetable prices went up by 8.73% in June 2014, in comparison to a year earlier.
If we look at the breakup provided by the WPI data potato prices went up by 42.52% in June. A major reason for the same seems to be the fact that the delay in the rains has led to a delay in sowing, harvesting and supply of crops.
Data provided by
the National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation proves this. As on June 2, 2014, the potato prices at the Agra mandi were Rs 12.15 per kg and the arrival of potatoes was at 1350 tonnes. On July 14, 2014, the arrival of potatoes had fallen to 720 tonnes and the price had shot up to Rs 16.20 per kg. This explains to a large extent the dramatic rise in the price of potatoes in the month of June. The current trend suggests that the price of potatoes will continue to rise in July as well.
Also, despite a minimum export price of $450 per tonne being set, a huge amount of potatoes are being exported to Pakistan.
A recent PTI report suggests that “as much as 1,500 to 2,000 tonnes of potatoes are being exported to Pakistan per day through Attari-Wagah land route in the wake of scarcity of the main vegetable crop in the neighbouring nation.”
And what about onions? Onion prices in June 2014 went up by 10.7% in comparison to the same period in 2013. In June 2013, onion prices had risen by 114.76%. The onion prices between May and June 2014 rose by 16.06%.
The arrival of onions at Lasalgaon, the biggest onion
mandi in the country has come down between June and July. In June, the average daily arrival of onions had stood at around 1590 tonnes, at an average price of Rs 13.67 per kg. For the first half of July, the average arrivals have fallen to a little over 1200 tonnes at an average price of Rs 19.67 per kg.
This clearly is not a good sign.
A recent report in the Business Standard pointed out that the National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation put “the onion inventory across the country at 2.4-2.5 million tonnes.” The country consumes around 1.2 million tonnes of onions per month. This means that the current stock of onions will last till end of August 2014. “The problem will aggravate in September, when the existing stocks finish. The government should start importing,” RP Gupta, director of National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation told the Business Standard. Onions can last as long as six months. Hence, unlike vegetables, the government can import and store onions if it wants to.
Other than this, fruit and milk prices continue to rise at a very high rate. Fruit prices in June 2014 rose by 21.4%( as per the CPI) and milk prices rose by 10.82%(as per the CPI). Egg, meat and fish prices also rose by 10.27%(as per the CPI) in comparison to last year. This is an impact of the loose-fiscal policy run by the Congress led United Progressive Alliance government. As a recent report titled
What a Waste! Brought out by Crisil Research points out “Loose fiscal policy, rising demand for high-value food items and substantial increases in wages — especially in rural wages, as a spillover [of] the rural employment guarantee scheme — have translated into higher demand for proteins. This has raised the prices of items such as milk & milk products, egg, fish and meat as supply falls short of demand. The production of milk and eggs has risen by only 3-4% a year, compounded annually, during 2009-10 to 2012-13, while inflation in this category has risen 14-15% a year.”
Due to these reasons the risk of high food inflation will not go away any time soon.
The article appeared with a different headline on on July 15, 2014

(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek) 


Inflation over 10%: India needs a Rajiv Gandhi Inflation Control Yojana

RAJIV_158869fVivek Kaul
But Ma I want to become an economist,” said the son.
An economist?” asked the mother. “Why in the world do you want to do that? You are already a politician.”
“Aren’t they kind of cool?” asked the son.
Care to explain?”
“Look at Rajan at the Reserve Bank, the women are just swooning over him,” said the son. “Mrs De even wrote a column on how hot he is.”
“Yes. But do you remember the one before Rajan? No woman would have fallen for him, even though he did try and learn the salsa dance,” said the mother, puncturing the bubble.
Ah, trust you to spoil the fun as always,” said the son. “I was so looking forward to the women swooning over me.”
“Aren’t they already,” replied the mother, trying to do some damage control. “Look at the number of responses we have got to that advertisement we placed on Wanted a fair, convent educated, homely girl who respects her elders and can cook.”
He He.”
“But why do you suddenly want to become an economist?”
Oh, every other day the media talks about inflation, index of industrial production and what not,” said the son. “And I don’t understand any of it.”
“But you don’t have to understand all that 
beta,” said the mother. “What else do we have mauni baba for?”
“Oh yeah, 
mauni baba is an economist, I had almost forgotten, given that he rarely speaks these days.”
“Yes. Let me just call him for you.”
Five minutes later, 
mauni baba is hurried in through the door.
What happened madam?” he asked. “Hope all is well.”
“Nothing really,” she replied. “My son here just had a few small doubts. I’ll leave the two of you alone to have a man to man talk.”
Saying this, the mother left the room and the son decided to brush up on his economics.
“You know sir, the index of industrial production(IIP) number came in earlier in the day and it rose by 2%.”
“Yes, it did 
beta. What do you want to know about it?” asked mauni baba rather lovingly.
“Why is the number so low?”
“We are going through tough times. You know the IIP essentially measures the level of the industrial activity in the country.”
“But isn’t 2% very low?”
“Yes it is. In fact, if we look at just manufacturing which forms 75% of the IIP, it grew by only 0.6%.”
“Oh, so low?”
“Yes,” said 
mauni baba. “The industrial activity in the country has come to a standstill.”
“But why is that?” asked the son.
People are not buying as many cars as they were. Neither are they buying consumer durables, which fell by 10% during September 2013, in comparison to the same period last year,” said mauni baba, without answering the question.
“But what is the problem?”
“The problem is inflation. The consumer price inflation for the month of October 2013 was at 10.09%.”
“Oh, yes I saw that on television,” said the son. “They keep going on and on about onion and tomato prices going up. I am so bored of watching that.”
“Yes, you should watch Star World Premiere HD.”
“And if they can’t eat onions and tomatoes, why don’t they try pasta and pizza,” said the son. “Or even caviar.”
“Doesn’t go down well with the Indian taste, you know,” said 
mauni baba. “We need our dal, rice and rasam.”
So you were telling me something about inflation.”
“Yes. So inflation is greater than 10%. Food inflation is higher. Consumer price inflation number suggests that food inflation is at 12.56%. As per the wholesale price inflation number, the food inflation is at 18.4%.”
“And what does that mean?”
“Half of the expenditure of an average Indian household goes towards food. Given the rate at which food prices are rising, more and more money is being spent on paying for food and other essentials.”
“Hence, there is very little money left to buy non essential items like consumer durables and cars. And this leads to low industrial activity. When the demand falls, so does the supply.”
“But where does this inflation come from?” asked the son. “Why can’t we just stop it by launching a RGICLY?”
“RGICLY?” asked 
mauni baba. “What is that?”
“Rajiv Gandhi Inflation Control Yojana,” explained the son, very seriously.
“We can try, we can try,” said 
mauni baba going with the flow.
“But where does this inflation come from?”
Well, over the last few years, the government has increased its expenditure. All this money being spent lands up in the hands of people. And they go out and spend that money. When a greater amount of money chases the same amount of goods and services, prices rise. Food prices particularly work along these lines.”
“Ah. So basically we need to grow more onions and tomatoes.”
“Yes, yes,” said 
mauni baba. Its an opportune time to launch IGKTUY.”
“IGKTUY?” asked, the confused son. “What is that?”
“Indira Gandhi Kaandha Tamatar Ugaao Yojana.”
“Kaandha why not just Pyaaz or Pyaaj?” asked the son. “No one understands Kaandha in North India.”
“Oh, I just though IGK comes in a sequence and thus, sounds better,” 
mauni baba explained.
“IGK or IJK?” asked the son.
“Oh, never mind.”
“But now I get it. Basically inflation is killing growth,” said the son.
“Yes, in fact there is even a term for it.”
“And what is that?”
“Stagflation, which is a combination of stagnation and inflation.”
“Ah, stagflation,” said the son. “I quite like the term. Reminds me of all the stag parties I used to attend.”
“So can I go now?” asked 
mauni baba.
Wait, wait, wait,” said the son. “I just understood what you were really trying to say.”
“That, mother is essentially responsible for everything. She was the one who got the government to increase its expenditure and spend much more than it earned, which is what finally led to inflation.”
“But I didn’t say that,” 
mauni baba protested.
You did not. But that was what you meant,” said a confident son. “Mother won’t like listening to this.”
“Ah. You are making the same mistake as other people.”
“They don’t call me 
mauni baba just for nothing,” said mauni baba and walked out confidently from the room.
The mother soon came back into the room and the son told her everything. As he finished, the mother burst out into a hearty laugh.
You know, this is quite unbelievable,” she said. “You want me to believe that for the last half an hour mauni baba was speaking and you were listening?”
The article originally appeared on on November 13, 2013
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)