The Committee is of the view that the persistence of inflation excluding food and fuel could set a floor on further downward movements in headline inflation and trigger secondorder effects. Nevertheless, headline CPI inflation in Q4 of 2016-17 is likely to be below 5 percent. Favourable base effects and lagged effects of demand compression may mute headline inflation in Q1 of 2017-18. Thereafter, it is expected to pick up momentum, especially as growth picks up and the output gap narrows. Moreover, base effects will reverse and turn adverse during Q3 and Q4 of 2017-18. Accordingly, inflation is projected in the range of 4.0 to 4.5 per cent in the first half of the financial year and in the range of 4.5 to 5.0 per cent in the second half with risks evenly balanced around this projected path. In this context, it is important to note three significant upside risks that impart some uncertainty to the baseline inflation path – the hardening profile of international crude prices; volatility in the exchange rate on account of global financial market developments, which could impart upside pressures to domestic inflation; and the fuller effects of the house rent allowances under the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC) award which have not been factored in the baseline inflation path.The focus of the Union budget on growth revival without compromising on fiscal prudence should bode well for limiting upside risks to inflation.
GVA growth for 2016-17 is projected at 6.9 per cent with risks evenly balanced around it. Growth is expected to recover sharply in 2017-18 on account of several factors. First, discretionary consumer demand held back by demonetisation is expected to bounce back beginning in the closing months of 2016-17. Second, economic activity in cash-intensive sectors such as retail trade, hotels and restaurants, and transportation, as well as in the unorganised sector, is expected to be rapidly restored. Third, demonetisation-induced ease in bank funding conditions has led to a sharp improvement in transmission of past policy rate reductions into marginal cost-based lending rates (MCLRs), and in turn, to lending rates for healthy borrowers, which should spur a pick-up in both consumption and investment demand. Fourth, the emphasis in the Union Budget for 2017-18 on stepping up capital expenditure, and boosting the rural economy and affordable housing should contribute to growth. Accordingly, GVA growth for 2017-18 is projected at 7.4 per cent, with risks evenly balanced.
The Committee remains committed to bringing headline inflation closer to 4.0 percent on a durable basis and in a calibrated manner. This requires further significant decline in inflation expectations, especially since the services component of inflation that is sensitive to wage movements has been sticky. The committee decided to change the stance from accommodative to neutral while keeping the policy rate on hold to assess how the transitory effects of demonetisation on inflation and the output gap play out.