Global oil prices have risen above the OPEC price band over the last 12 months. Because of general elections, the global oil price increase was not passed through into the Indian oil prices. The dismantling of the APM remained purely on paper. The Yukos crises in Russia and the blowing up of Iraqi pipelines has led to a sharp rise in oil prices to $ 45 a barrel. Only a part of global price rise was passed into the Indian market by the new Government in June. As a result of the global rise in oil prices, Indian inflation has increased by about 0.5% point, and is likely to increase further in August. Pressure on this front therefore remains.
In addition to global oil prices, raw materials and minerals prices also increased last year. After a lag of 6 to 9 months, manufactured goods prices of items which have a large component of such minerals in their inputs have tended to increase (e.g. iron ore and iron & steel). These increases were largely due to a tremendous increase in demand from China and from global recovery. Both these sources of growth have abated somewhat and inflation arising from these two sources is likely to moderate. I expect WPI inflation to decline to around 6.5 per cent by December.
The following policy reforms could be helpful in containing inflation (in India): (a) Reduce tariffs on agricultural commodities in which prices are rising sharply; (b) Reintroduce the amendment to the Coal Nationalisation Act to allow private entry in the coal sector so that there is genuine competition for imported oil; (c) Amend the Electricity Act (2003) to make the regulator independent and professional and set up a good regulatory system; (d) Launch a crusade against theft of electricity (35% to 50% of total generation); and (e) Reduce the “peak rate” of tariffs from 20% to 15% (latest by the next budget).