PARAGRAPH,WORDS AND MEANINGS

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Topic of the day – A) Avoiding a slowdown: on Fed interest rates

“Central banks are reversing the direction of their policies in a seemingly coordinated bid”

Over the last few days, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has been trying to allay fears that it will continue to raise interest rates notwithstanding conditions in the economy. Many, including President Donald Trump, have been quite critical of the Fed raising rates despite a slowing economy and inflation staying well below its official target of 2%. In fact, many have argued that the gradual but persistent raising of rates may be the reason behind the slowdown in U.S. growth and the lacklustre inflation numbers. The American economy created a mere 20,000 jobs in February, the slowest growth in jobs in well over a year, and GDP growth in the coming quarters is expected to slow considerably from the rate of 3.4% in the third quarter last year. On Sunday, however, Mr. Powell termed the current interest rate level as “appropriate”, and noted that the Fed does “not feel any hurry” to raise rates further. The Fed Chairman’s remarks come around the tenth anniversary of the historic bull market in U.S. stocks, which began in March 2009 after policy rates were cut aggressively in order to fight the recession. This marks a significant change from Mr. Powell’s hawkish policy stance since taking over last year. But right now it is not just the Fed that has put the brakes on the normalisation of monetary policy through a gradual tightening of short-term interest rates. As economic conditions in Europe and Asia begin to deteriorate, central banks have been quick to turn more dovish.European Central Bank President Mario Draghi last week announced that rates in Europe will be kept low until next year and offered to lend cheaply to European banks. The People’s Bank of China has promised further monetary stimulus measures to stem the fall in growth, and the Reserve Bank of India has started to cut interest rates as growth has slowed down each successive quarter this fiscal ahead of the general election. It should thus be obvious by now that central banks around the world are reversing the direction of their policies in what seems to be a coordinated effort to avoid a global growth slowdown. The brakes applied to the raising of interest rates by the Fed allows other central banks to lower their own policy rates and boost growth without the fear that disruptive capital flows could wreak havoc on their economies. While such coordinated monetary policy can certainly prevent slowdowns, it also raises the risk of extended periods of low interest rates leading to more destructive bubbles.

B) A promise to live by: on Indian democracy

“All political parties must be mindful of the core values that invigorate Indian democracy”

As the countdown for elections to the 17th Lok Sabha begins, the world’s largest democracy has a chance to re-imagine itself. Over the last 16 general elections and numerous elections at lower levels, the resolute trust that the founding fathers of the Republic put in the parliamentary democratic system has been substantially proven wise. India did make some dangerous turns and show signs of fragility, especially during the Emergency in the 1970s, but in the long term it expanded the scope of its democracy through widening representation, devolution of power and redistribution of resources. This is not to overlook the various maladies that have afflicted the country’s democracy, such as disinformation campaigns, corruption, disenfranchisement of the weaker sections of the society, the corroding influence of money and muscle power in elections, and divisive majoritarian tendencies. While the representative character of institutions has in general improved, women and religious minorities are alarmingly underrepresented. The exercise of elections itself is a matter of great pride for all Indians. The Election Commission of India has over the decades evolved itself into a fine institution and plays a critical role in the sustenance of democracy. Its efforts to increase voter participation through a series of small steps over the years, including the use of the Electronic Voting Machines, have been praiseworthy. The vulnerabilities of Indian democracy have been pronounced in the last five years, and some of its long-term gains have been undermined. Therefore, this election is more than an exercise to elect a new government. This should also be an occasion to reiterate and reinforce Indian democracy’s core values, its representative character and its promise of a constant rejuvenation of the collective spirit. The ECI has announced a series of fresh measures to strengthen the integrity of the electoral process and curb some rapidly growing hazards such as the spread of falsehoods aimed at creating social polarisation for consolidation of votes. Measures such as better monitoring of social media campaigns, while steps in the right direction, are not in themselves adequate to deal with the challenges of these times. The stakes are high for all contenders this year, and Indian politics has reached a level of competitiveness where ground rules of engagement are routinely disregarded. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who rode to power in 2014 on the agenda of material progress through Hindutva, has to defend his reign to seek a second term. His opponents sense an existential danger from him and are trying to mobilise those left behind or who feel disempowered by his governance. While furthering individual interests, all parties must realise that democracy itself is at stake if the campaign is aimed at communal polarisation. Though the promise of Indian democracy has not been fully realised, voters have remained committed to it. They turn up in large numbers to vote, and consider the very act of voting as empowerment. That trust should be upheld.

MEANINGS AND WORDS

1) despite

Meaning : contemptuous treatment or behaviour; outrage(n).

Synonyms : against

Antonyms : exalt

Example : “the despite done by him to the holy relics”

2) persistent

Meaning : continuing firmly or obstinately in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition(adj).

Synonyms : constant

Antonyms : broken

Example : “one of the government’s most persistent critics”

3) lacklustre

Meaning : lacking in vitality, force, or conviction; uninspired or uninspiring(adj).

Synonyms : drab

Antonyms : bright

Example : “no excuses were made for the team’s lacklustre performance”

4) mere

Meaning : used to emphasize how small or insignificant someone or something is(adj).

Synonyms : pure

Antonyms : indefinite

Example : “questions that cannot be answered by mere mortals”

5) considerably

Meaning : by a notably large amount or to a notably large extent; greatly(adv).

Synonyms : substantially

Antonyms : insignificantly

Example : “things have improved considerably over the last few years”

6) aggressively

Meaning : in a manner resulting from or betraying aggression(adv).

Synonyms : strenuously

Antonyms : mildly

Example : “he resisted violently and continued to behave aggressively in the police car”

7) recession

Meaning : a period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters.

Synonyms : deflation

Antonyms : increase

Example : “the country is in the depths of a recession”

8) stance

Meaning : the way in which someone stands, especially when deliberately adopted (as in cricket, golf, and other sports); a person’s posture.

Synonyms : posture

Antonyms : truancy

Example : “she altered her stance, resting all her weight on one leg”

9) deteriorate

Meaning : become progressively worse.

Synonyms : decline

Antonyms : approve

Example : “relations between the countries had deteriorated sharply”

10) disregarded

Meaning : pay no attention to; ignore(v).

Synonyms : disobey

Antonyms : regard

Example : “the body of evidence is too substantial to disregard”

11) disruptive

Meaning : causing or tending to cause disruption.

Synonyms : disturbing

Antonyms : disciplined

Example : “disruptive pupils”

12) havoc

Meaning : widespread destruction(n).

Synonyms : calamity

Antonyms : blessing

Example : “the hurricane ripped through Florida causing havoc”

13) destructive

Meaning : causing great and irreparable damage.

Synonyms : harmful

Antonyms : assisting

Example : “the destructive power of weapons”

14) substantially

Meaning : to a great or significant extent(adv).

Synonyms : essentially

Antonyms : slightly

Example : “profits grew substantially”

15) fragility

Meaning : the quality of being easily broken or damaged.

Synonyms : frailty

Antonyms : stability

Example : “osteoporosis is characterized by bone fragility”

16) devolution

Meaning : the transfer or delegation of power to a lower level, especially by central government to local or regional administration(n).

Synonyms : decline

Antonyms : ascent

Example : “demands for electoral reform and devolution”

17) afflicted

Meaning : (of a problem or illness) cause pain or trouble to; affect adversely(v).

Synonyms : depressed

Antonyms : glorious

Example : “his younger child was afflicted with a skin disease”

18) evolved

Meaning : develop gradually(v).

Synonyms : derive

Antonyms : diminish

Example : “the company has evolved into a major chemical manufacturer”

19) sustenance

Meaning : food and drink regarded as a source of strength; nourishment(n).

Synonyms : nourishment

Antonyms : deprivation

Example : “poor rural economies turned to potatoes for sustenance”

20) undermined

Meaning : erode the base or foundation of (a rock formation).

Synonyms : cripple

Antonyms : assist

Example : “the flow of water had undermined pillars supporting the roof”

21) reiterate

Meaning : say something again or a number of times, typically for emphasis or clarity(v).

Synonyms : renew

Antonyms : take back

Example : “she reiterated that the government would remain steadfast in its support”

22) reinforce

Meaning : say something again or a number of times, typically for emphasis or clarity(v).

Synonyms : bolster

Antonyms : decrease

Example : “she reiterated that the government would remain steadfast in its support”

23) rejuvenation

Meaning : the action or process of making someone or something look or feel better, younger, or more vital(n).

Synonyms : renewal

Antonyms : destruction

Example : “plans for the rejuvenation of the area”

24) curb

Meaning : a check or restraint on something(n).

Synonyms : barrier

Antonyms : freedom

Example : “plans to introduce tougher curbs on insider dealing”

25) contenders

Meaning : a person or group competing with others to achieve something(n).

Synonyms : challenger

Antonyms : associate

Example : “a presidential contender”

26) integrity

Meaning : the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

Synonyms : honesty

Antonyms : deceit

Example : “a gentleman of complete integrity”

27) defend

Meaning : resist an attack made on (someone or something); protect from harm or danger(v).

Synonyms : contend

Antonyms : abandon

Example : “we shall defend our island, whatever the cost”

28) reign

Meaning : the period of rule of a monarch(v).

Synonyms : regime

Antonyms : impotence

Example : “the original chapel was built in the reign of Charles I”

29) consolidation

Meaning : the action or process of making something stronger or more solid(n).

Synonyms : merger

Antonyms : division

Example : “the permanent consolidation of peace”

30) upheld

Meaning : confirm or support (something which has been questioned)(v).

Synonyms : sustained

Antonyms : unsupported

Example : “the court upheld his claim for damages”