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What is Retail Inflation? 

Context:

India’s retail inflation eased marginally to 7.04% in May from the nearly eight-year high of 7.79% in April, reflecting a persistent uptick of over 6% in prices paid by consumers for the fifth successive month.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Fiscal Policy, Taxation)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Inflation?
  2. Types of Inflation based on rate of Increase
  3. What is Consumer Price Index (CPI)?
  4. About the Latest inflation data

What is Inflation?

  • Inflation refers to the consistent rise in the prices of most goods and services of daily or common use, such as food, clothing, housing, recreation, transport, consumer staples, etc. Inflation measures the average price change in a basket of commodities and services over time.
  • A moderate level of inflation is required in the economy to ensure that production is promoted. Excess Inflation is indicative of the decrease in the purchasing power of a unit of a country’s currency. This could ultimately lead to a deceleration in economic growth.
  • In India, inflation is primarily measured by two main indices — WPI (Wholesale Price Index) and CPI (Consumer Price Index) which measure wholesale and retail-level price changes, respectively.

Types of Inflation based on rate of Increase

There are four main types of inflation, categorized by their speed. They are creeping, walking, galloping, and hyperinflation.

I. Creeping Inflation

  • Creeping or mild inflation is when prices rise 3% a year or less. According to the Federal Reserve, when prices increase 2% or less, it benefits economic growth.
  • This kind of mild inflation makes consumers expect that prices will keep going up. That boosts demand. Consumers buy now to beat higher future prices. That’s how mild inflation drives economic expansion.

II. Walking Inflation

  • When prices rise by more than 3% but less than 10% per annum (i.e., between 3% and 10% per annum), it is called as Walking Inflation.
  • It is harmful to the economy because it heats-up economic growth too fast.
  • People start to buy more than they need to avoid tomorrow’s much higher prices. This increased buying drives demand even further so that suppliers can’t keep up and neither can the wages. As a result, common goods and services are priced out of the reach of most people.

III. Galloping Inflation

  • When inflation rises to 10% or more (i.e., prices rise by double- or triple-digit inflation rates like 30% or 400% or 999% per annum), it wreaks absolute havoc on the economy. It is also referred as jumping inflation.
  • Money loses value so fast that business and employee income can’t keep up with costs and prices.
  • Foreign investors avoid the country, depriving it of needed capital. The economy becomes unstable, and government leaders lose credibility.

IV. Hyperinflation

  • Hyperinflation refers to a situation where the prices rise at an alarming high rate – i.e., more than 50% a month.
  • The prices rise so fast that it becomes very difficult to measure its magnitude. However, in quantitative terms, when prices rise above 1000% per annum (quadruple or four-digit inflation rate), it is termed as Hyperinflation.
  • Most examples of hyperinflation occur when governments print money to pay for wars.
  • Examples of hyperinflation include Germany in the 1920s, Zimbabwe in the 2000s, and Venezuela in the 2010s.
  • During a worst-case scenario of hyperinflation, value of national currency (money) of an affected country reduces almost to zero. Paper money becomes worthless and people start trading either in gold and silver or sometimes even use the old barter system of commerce.

V. Chronic Inflation

  • If creeping inflation persist (continues to increase) for a longer period of time then it is often called as Chronic or Secular Inflation.
  • Chronic Creeping Inflation can be either Continuous (which remains consistent without any downward movement) or Intermittent (which occurs at regular intervals).
  • It is called chronic because if an inflation rate continues to grow for a longer period without any downturn, then it possibly leads to Hyperinflation.

VI. Moderate Inflation

  • Concept of Creeping and Walking inflation clubbed together are called Moderate Inflation.
  • When prices rise by less than 10% per annum (single digit inflation rate), it is known as Moderate Inflation.
  • It is a stable inflation and not a serious economic problem.

VII. Running Inflation

  • A rapid acceleration in the rate of rising prices is referred as Running Inflation.
  • When prices rise by more than 10% per annum, running inflation occurs.
  • Though economists have not suggested a fixed range for measuring running inflation, we may consider price rise between 10% to 20% per annum (double digit inflation rate) as a running inflation.

What is Consumer Price Index (CPI)?

  • Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures price changes from the perspective of a retail buyer.
  • CPI is released by the National Statistical Office (NSO).
  • Base Year for CPI is 2012 and the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) uses CPI data to control inflation.
  • The CPI calculates the difference in the price of commodities and services such as food, medical care, education, electronics etc, which Indian consumers buy for use.
  • The CPI has several sub-groups including food and beverages, fuel and light, housing and clothing, bedding and footwear.
  • Four types of CPI are as follows:
    1. CPI for Industrial Workers (IW).
    2. CPI for Agricultural Labourer (AL).
    3. CPI for Rural Labourer (RL).
    4. CPI (Rural/Urban/Combined).
  • Of these, CPI for Industrial Workers (IW), CPI for Agricultural Labourer (AL) and CPI for Rural Labourer (RL) are compiled by the Labour Bureau in the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
  • CPI (Rural/Urban/Combined) is compiled by the National Statistical Office (NSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

About the Latest inflation data

  • Inflation faced by rural consumers fell to 7.01% in May from 8.38% in April, but for households in urban areas, the pace of price rise was virtually flat month-on-month, moving from 7.09% in April to 7.08% in May.
  • Food price inflation, which had hit a 17-month high of 8.31% in April, eased a little to 7.97% in May, thanks to a decline in rural food inflation to 7.76% from 8.5%.
  • However, the Consumer Food Price Index surged for urban India to 8.2% in May from 8.09% in April.

-Source: The Hindu


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