English Vocab

Moody’s: Glass half full
Last week when Moody’s, one of the world’s top three credit ratings agencies, raised India’s sovereign rating after nearly 14 years, the responses to it demonstrated the nation’s sharply divided politics. While the government understandably tom-tommed (proclaim or boast about.) it as proof that its policies were succeeding, opposition leaders almost universally derided (express contempt for; ridicule.) it.

In reality, it is indeed a vindication (proof that someone or something is right, reasonable, or justified.) of improvements in the fundamentals of India’s economy. It will ease access to credit, help attract investment, and boost job creation. While this is surely cause for some celebration, hubris is best avoided. There is still immense struggle ahead over many years if India is to overcome its economic and human development challenges.
Ratings agencies are far from infallible (incapable of making mistakes or being wrong.). Indeed, Moody’s itself had been criticised for not catching the problems at Lehman Brothers, the Wall Street firm it had rated highly, whose collapse in 2008 precipitated the global financial crisis. But they were not alone, with the other two ratings majors – Fitch, and Standard & Poor’s (S&P) – also being in the same boat.
Subsequently, they have had to work hard to reestablish credibility. For instance, S&P claimed to “have spent approximately $400 million to reinforce the integrity, independence and performance of our ratings. We also brought in new leadership, instituted new governance and enhanced risk management.”
Regulatory changes too have tightened norms and increased oversight, such as the US Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Though some critics still pan the ratings process, the fact is that risk evaluations by independent agencies remain crucial to how capital is allocated throughout the world. Finally, the proof of the pudding lies in the eating: no respectable lender or investor of consequence will act without a credit rating.
Thus, questioning ratings firms’ evaluations might have been justifiable a few years ago, or even today in relevant industry or academic forums with specific procedural challenges. But sneering at them broadly, that too only when triggered by the country’s rating upgrade, reeks (be suggestive of something unpleasant or undesirable.)  of partisanship. In fact, since some of the critics would gladly have turned metaphorical cartwheels to get a ratings uptick if they were in government, it might even be seen aschurlish (rude in a mean-spirited and surly way.).
The ratings improvement ought not to have come as a surprise to any neutral observer of the Indian economy. This column, for one, has on several occasions bucked the generally gloomy trend of commentary since demonetisation to recognise contrarian (opposing or rejecting popular opinion or current practice.), positive changes taking place. There were also unmissable external clues, including praise from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and India’s unprecedented 30-place jump in the World Bank’s annual ease of doing business index just a couple of weeks ago.
The Moody’s report has forecast a GDP growth rate turnaround from last quarter’s 5.7%, a three year low, to 6.7% for FY 2018, 7.5% for FY 2019, and “similarly robust” levels from 2019 onwards. If this turns out to be the case, it will bode well for the nation.
However, India’s potential for growth is even higher, as is our desperate need for it. China, the only other billion plus population nation, had a similar per capita income level as India in the late 1970s. But four decades of sustained high growth has taken the size of its economy to five times of India’s. That has helped China to do much better than us in reducing poverty and creating jobs.
India has missed the bus on earlier occasions to put policies in place for sustained high growth rates, but there is now a historic fork in the road. Chinese growth has beenplateauing (reach a state of little or no change after a period of activity or progress.), and global financial markets currently deem that country’s commitment to reform inadequate. China’s aggressive foreign policy has also raised hackles. Both economics and geopolitics have conspired to give us another opportunity to get our act together.
For that to happen, many significant hurdles will have to be overcome. Take, for example, the PM’s declared goal of getting India into the top 50 in the World Bank ease of doing business index. Despite dramatic improvements this year on several measures, India still ranks a lowly 181 (out of 190 nations) on dealing with construction permits. And 164 on enforcement of contracts.
Some of these could be tackled administratively, and steps are apparently already being taken to have dedicated courts for commercial disputes. Others, like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will require even more simplification than the many steps already taken in recent weeks. If 90% of items could be taxed at one rate, say 15%, and filings and refunds further simplified, the effects would be substantial.
But the really big-ticket items will require legislative changes, and therein lies the rub (the central problem or difficulty in a situation.). Two of the biggest hurdles to investment, economic growth and job creation are the impossibly complicated land acquisition law, and obsolete, counterproductive labour laws.
For now, this government seems to have concluded, like its predecessors, that it would cost too much political capital to take these head on. So it has been left to the states, a few of which are attempting tentative (done without confidence), baby steps.
Demonstrable success in any state would stir competition and emulation by others, gradually boosting the national economy. But for a dramatic, and quicker, raising of the trajectory, there is no alternative to taking the bull by the horns (deal decisively with a difficult or dangerous situation.) in Parliament.

1. Tom-tom (verb): (Proclaim or boast about.) (ढिंढोरा पीटना)
Synonyms: Brag, Crow, Blow one's own trumpet, Sing one's own praises.
Antonyms: Belittle, Disparage.
Example: When people tom-tom about their accomplishments, it makes the conversation take an awkward turn.
Verb forms: Tom-tom, Tom-tommed, Tom-tommed.  
Origin: from Hindi ṭam ṭam

2. Vindication (noun): (Proof that someone or something is right, reasonable, or justified.)   (प्रामाणिकता)
Synonyms: Justification, Substantiation, Rationalization. 
Antonyms: Irrationality.
Example: After his last novel received such harsh reviews from the critics, Byron determined to vindicate himself by writing the greatest work of his career.
Verb forms: Vindicate, Vindicated, Vindicated.
Related words:
Vindicate (noun) - Show or prove to be right, reasonable, or justified.

3. Infallible (adjective): (Incapable of making mistakes or being wrong.) (कभी गलती न करने वाला/अचूक)
Synonyms: Unerring, Error-Free, Unfailing, Faultless, Flawless, Impeccable, Perfect
Antonyms: Erring, Fallible, Faulty, Imperfect.
Example: Even though doctors have gone to school for many years, they are stillinfallible because they do not know everything.
Related words:
Infallibility (noun) - The quality of never making an error

4. Deride (verb): Express contempt for/ to subject to bitter ridicule. (उपहास करना)
Synonyms: Ridicule, Mock, Jeer At, Scoff At, Jibe At, Make Fun Of
Antonyms: Admire, Compliment, Praise, Respect
Example: Because the book was written so poorly, the critic had no choice but toderide the book’s author in the review.
Verb forms: Deride, Derided, Derided
Related words:
Derision (noun) – Mockery
Origin: from Latin deridere ‘scoff at’.

5. Reek (verb): (Lit- smell strongly and unpleasantly/fig-be suggestive of something unpleasant or undesirable.) (सांकेतिक/सूचक)
Synonyms: Stink, Smell, Insinuate (Undesirable), Imply (Unpleasant).
Antonyms: Perfume, Bode Well.
Example: After camping for two weeks without properly showering, I started to reek.
Verb forms: Reek, Reeked, Reeked.

6. Churlish (adjective): (Rude in a mean-spirited and surly way.) (अक्खड़)
Synonyms:  Ill-Mannered, Discourteous, Ungentlemanly, Un-Chivalrous, Rude, Sullen.
Antonyms: Polite, Refined, Sophisticated.
Example: Melissa decided not to accept Freddie’s offer to escort her to the party because of his churlish behavior.

7. Plateau (verb): (Reach a state of little or no change after a period of activity or progress.)  (स्थिर हो जाना)
Synonyms: Stagnate, Become stagnant, Stand still, Be sluggish, Lie dormant.
Antonyms: Progress, Make headway, Gain ground. 
Example: Because John needs more money and his current salary has beenPlateauedfor three years, he is looking for a new job.
Verb forms: Plateau, Plateaued, Plateaued.
Related words:
Plateau (noun) - An area of fairly level high ground/ a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress.

8. Rub (noun): (The central problem or difficulty in a situation.) (रुकावट/कठिनाई)
Synonyms: Problem, Difficulty, Trouble, Drawback, Hindrance, Obstacle, Obstruction, Impediment.
Antonyms: Breakthrough, Solution.
Example: The lack of money is the biggest rub, one faces in opening a startup.

9. Tentative (adjective): (Done without confidence/ Not certain or fixed; provisional.)  (संभावित/अनिश्चित)) 
Synonyms: Provisional, Unconfirmed, Unsettled, Indefinite
Antonyms: Certain, Conclusive, Decisive, Definite, Final
Example: The employees were not happy when they learned their pay raises weretentative and could be cancelled at any moment.
Related words:
Tentatively (adverb) - अस्थायी तौर से

10. Take the bull by the horn (idiom): (Deal decisively with a difficult or dangerous situation.) (साहसपूर्वक मुसीबतों का सामना करना)
Synonyms: Face boldly, Meet decisively, Be dauntlessly, Deal daringly.
Antonyms: Be timid, Be fearful.
Example:  The government should take the bull by the horns to tackle the regressive state of economy after demonetization.
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