a) Slippery oil rally: on the oil-price rise

The price of oil has risen sharply in recent weeks leading to renewed forecasts of a sustained bull market in the price of the commodity. The price of Brent crude, which breached the $60 mark late last month, is currently trading at about $64 per barrel, a two-year high. In fact, in the last one month alone, oil has gained well over 12%. The oil rally has been even sharper from its June low of a little below $45, from where the commodity has rallied more than 40% to reach its current price, with some experts saying the ongoing rally could portend even higher prices in the coming months. The upsurge this week has been driven primarily by political uncertainty in Saudi Arabia, the world’s second largest producer of oil, and the tightening of supply by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which is expected to extend its supply-cut agreement beyond March. Whether the price gains would sustain and continue over an extended period of time still remains a big question for various reasons, however. Shale oil production is the biggest among them. In the past, North American producers of shale brought a multi-year bull market in oil to an abrupt end. Since then, OPEC has struggled to maintain control over oil prices except for brief spells. The American shale industry has been let free to increase production in response to higher prices, thus imposing a cap on the price of oil. There are no signs yet of a structural change in the oil market to suggest that it could be any different this time. Shale producers have continued to pump more oil into the market as crude prices have crossed the $50 mark. According to the Energy Information Administration, a body under the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. shale production is likely to increase by about 81,000 barrels per day in the current month. In addition, in its World Oil Outlook report released this week, OPEC said it expects shale output to grow much faster than it had previously estimated. The cartel’s new estimate is, in fact, more than 50% higher than its projection last year. It also noted that shale output from North America has increased by about 25% over the past one year. All this suggests that shale is likely to remain OPEC’s nemesis for a long time. India has derived huge benefits from lower oil prices since 2014, with the government’s fiscal management and inflation-targeting being rendered a lot easier. There is bound to be some economic unease now as the price of oil fluctuates in what looks likely to be a range-bound market. A repeat of the huge damage caused by the last oil bull market, however, seems unlikely. Nonetheless, policymakers in Delhi will surely take a cautious stance given the extensive impact that oil prices have on the Indian economy.

b) Turmoil in the Brexit club

When Yair Lapid, the chairperson of the centrist Yesh Atid party in Israel, tweeted a photograph of him in discussion with Priti Patel, Britain’s Secretary of State for International Development at the time, on August 24 this year, he could never have anticipated the political storm it would trigger months later back in Britain. His was one of 12 undisclosed meetings that Ms. Patel held in Israel, including with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a “family holiday” paid for by her that month, full details of which were made public this week after revelations that she had held high-level discussions without alerting her Foreign Office and British officials in Israel. This was in contravention of protocol, and in what the opposition Labour Party described as a “clear breach” of the ministerial code. These revelations — and details of more undisclosed meetings with officials in New York and London, as well as her subsequent efforts to direct aid towards Israeli army work in the disputed Golan Heights — made Ms. Patel’s position increasingly untenable. Ms. Patel, who was forced to cut short an official visit to Africa, resigned on Wednesday, apologising for actions that had “fallen below the standards of transparency and openness” that she had advanced. Making it clear that sacking would have been inevitable had she not stepped down, British Prime Minister Theresa May said her decision was “right”.

Two resignations

The exit of Ms. Patel is significant on a number of counts. Hers was the second cabinet resignation within a week, after Defence Minister Michael Fallon resigned over sexual harassment allegations. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Boris Johnson faced criticism, and some calls for his resignation too, after incorrect comments he made to a parliamentary select committee that some have warned could lengthen the prison sentence of a British-Iranian national imprisoned in Iran. The developments have increased pressure on the British government at a crucial time in its Brexit negotiations. While the European Union (EU) has agreed to commence discussions within the remaining 27 nations about the potential terms of a trade deal with the U.K., it has refused to officially move forward with these until an agreement has been reached on a number of key issues, including Britain’s so-called “divorce bill.” One EU leader told The Times on Thursday that the EU is now preparing for a possible collapse of the May government before the end of 2017. Ahead of Ms. Patel’s resignation, many commentators pointed to the large number of revelations it took (including her reported visit to the disputed Golan Heights in what appeared to be a blatant attempt to pursue a freelance foreign policy) before she was forced to resign. After her resignation, others such as Labour MP David Lammy questioned why Mr. Johnson was able to keep his position, even as she “needed to go.” Over 150,000 people have signed a public petition calling for Mr. Johnson to step down as Foreign Secretary. Meanwhile, the First Secretary of State, Damian Green, is facing a parliamentary inquiry over conduct allegations. Within the Conservative Party, Ms. Patel’s departure will heighten tensions, as the party is already deeply divided over Brexit and the route forward. Ms. Patel’s politics lie to the right of the party — it was only last year that she changed her stance on the death penalty in Britain (she had once been a vocal advocate for its reintroduction), while she has attacked public funding of trade unions as well as European social and employment legislation.

Leave campaigners

Ms. Patel was an ardent advocate of the Leave campaign, infamously urging British Indians to vote to leave by arguing that it had been unfair that there was one rule for EU citizens and another for non-EU ones, and suggesting that Brexit could provide an opportunity to loosen the rules for non-EU citizens, including families from India and curry chefs (it has become tougher and more expensive to bring in non-EU workers). Her departure has angered many within the Leave campaign, including the Daily Telegraph newspaper, which reported that allies were warning she could do “hard damage” to the government. It is notable that her replacement as Development Minister, Penny Mordaunt, was also a strong Leave campaigner. Ms. Patel was a prominent face of the British-India relationship — being awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman earlier this year and often speaking publicly in support of the Indian government’s policies, such as demonetisation. But her departure is unlikely to have a major impact on things, given the broad-based nature of the engagement across departments. Others within the Conservative Party have also been championing close relations with India, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in particular. They include Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Mark Field, whose efforts to encourage the BJP to join the International Democratic Union, a global alliance of centre-right parties, predated his time as minister for Asia.

The Indian vote

As for the Conservative Party’s efforts to woo the Indian vote, Ms. Patel’s exit is unlikely to impact much too: her unfulfilled promises around immigration rules during the referendum campaign have proved a divisive issue and made her less of a safe-bet politician to attract the Indian vote, though of course she will remain a prominent Conservative backbencher. The fact that she was allowed to resign rather than be fired is significant too: it keeps the door open for her to plausibly return to the front bench in the future. There is much uncertainty around both Ms. Patel’s and the Conservative government’s future, but one thing is certain: one can expect further revelations, and potentially damaging ones. The Labour Party is pushing for the government to clarify inconsistencies in what has emerged, potentially leaving space for senior Conservative politicians knowing far more about Ms. Patel’s Israeli overtures than anyone has been willing to admit. Others have suggested it represented part of a far more widely backed but behind the scenes shift in British foreign policy. Should anything major emerge about Downing Street knowing more than it had let on, it could well prove a turning point for Ms. May’s repeatedly scandal-hit government.


1) Breached

Meaning: Break or fail to observe (a law, agreement, or code of conduct).

Example: “these outside bodies are bootlegging albums and breaching copyright”

Synonyms: Break, Violate

2) Upsurge

Meaning: An upward surge in the strength or quantity of something; an increase.

Example: “an upsurge in vandalism and violent crime”

Synonyms: Increase, Recovery

Antonyms: Downturn

3) Sustain

Meaning: Cause to continue for an extended period or without interruption.

Example: “he cannot sustain a normal conversation”

Synonyms: Continue, Prolong

Antonyms: Intermittent, Sporadic

4) Abrupt

Meaning: Sudden and unexpected.

Example: “I was surprised by the abrupt change of subject”

Synonyms: Sudden, Immediate

Antonyms: Gradual, Unhurried

5) Imposing

Meaning: Grand and impressive in appearance.

Example: “an imposing 17th-century manor house”

Synonyms: Impressive, Arresting

Antonyms: Modest, Unimposing

6) Shale

Meaning: Soft finely stratified sedimentary rock that formed from consolidated mud or clay and can be split easily into fragile plates.

Example: Geology: types of rock.

Synonyms: Sediment

7) Projection

Meaning: An estimate or forecast of a future situation based on a study of present trends.

Example: “plans based on projections of slow but positive growth”

Synonyms: Estimate, Prediction

8) Nemesis

Meaning: A downfall caused by an inescapable agent.

Example: “one risks nemesis by uttering such words”

Synonyms: Downfall, Undoing

9) Rendered

Meaning: Provide or give (a service, help, etc.).

Example: “money serves as a reward for services rendered”

Synonyms: Give, Provide

10) Fluctuates

Meaning: Rise and fall irregularly in number or amount.

Example: “trade with other countries tends to fluctuate from year to year”

Synonyms: Vary, Change

Antonyms: Be steady

11) Bull market

Meaning: A market in which share prices are rising, encouraging buying.

A bull market is a financial market of a group of securities in which prices are rising or are expected to rise. The term “bull market” is most often used to refer to the stock market but can be applied to anything that is traded, such as bonds, currencies and commodities.

12) Extensive

Meaning: Large in amount or scale.

Example: “an extensive collection of silver”

Synonyms: Complete, Comprehensive

Antonyms: Small, Limited

13) Anticipated

Meaning: Regard as probable; expect or predict.

Example: “she anticipated scorn on her return to the theatre”

Synonyms: Expect, Predict

Antonyms: Dread

14) Trigger

Meaning: Cause (an event or situation) to happen or exist.

Example: “an allergy can be triggered by stress or overwork”

Synonyms: Prompt, Stimulate

15) Undisclosed

Meaning: Not revealed or made known publicly.

Example: “the precise terms of the agreement remained undisclosed”

Synonyms: Hidden, Sealed

Antonyms: Disclosed

16) Revelations

Meaning: A surprising and previously unknown fact that has been disclosed to others.

Example: “revelations about his personal life”

Synonyms: Disclosure, Leak

Antonyms: Keeping

17) Contravention

Meaning: An action which offends against a law, treaty, or other ruling.

Example: “the publishing of misleading advertisements was a contravention of the Act”

Synonyms: Breach, Violation

18) Subsequent

Meaning: Coming after something in time; following.

Example: “the theory was developed subsequent to the earthquake of 1906”

Synonyms: Following, Succeeding

Antonyms: Previous, Former

19) Disputed

Meaning: Question whether (a statement or alleged fact) is true or valid.

Example: “the accusations are not disputed”

Synonyms: Debate, Argue

Antonyms: Accept

20) Untenable

Meaning: (especially of a position or view) not able to be maintained or defended against attack or objection.

Example: “this argument is clearly untenable”

Synonyms: Indefensible, Undependable

Antonyms: Tenable, Defensible

21) Sacking

Meaning: Dismiss from employment.

Example: “any official found to be involved would be sacked on the spot”

Synonyms: Dismiss, Discharge

Antonyms: Hire

22) Inevitable

Meaning: Certain to happen; unavoidable.

Example: “war was inevitable”

Synonyms: Unavoidable, Inescapable

Antonyms: Avoidable, Uncertain

23) Stepped down

Meaning: Withdraw or resign from an important position or office.

Example: “he stepped down as party leader”

Synonyms: Resign, Retire

Antonyms: Take up office

24) Crucial

Meaning: Of great importance.

Example: “this game is crucial to our survival”

Synonyms: Critical, Important

Antonyms: Unimportant

25) Commence

Meaning: Begin.

Example: “his design team commenced work”

Synonyms: Begin, Start

Antonyms: Conclude

26) Collapse

Meaning: (of a structure) suddenly fall down or give way.

Example: “the roof collapsed on top of me”

Synonyms: Slump, Crumple

Antonyms: Hold up

27) Blatant

Meaning: (of bad behaviour) done openly and unashamedly.

Example: “blatant lies”

Synonyms: Obvious, Manifest

Antonyms: Subtle, Inconspicuous

28) Freelance

Meaning: Self-employed and hired to work for different companies on particular assignments.

Example: “a freelance journalist”

Synonyms: Independent, Self-employed

29) Heighten

Meaning: Make or become more intense.

Example: “the pleasure was heightened by the sense of guilt that accompanied it”

Synonyms: Intensify, Increase

Antonyms: Reduce

30) Stance

Meaning: The attitude of a person or organization towards something; a standpoint.

Example: “the party is changing its stance on Europe”

Synonyms: Attitude, Viewpoint

31) Ardent

Meaning: Very enthusiastic or passionate.

Example: “an ardent supporter of the conservative cause”

Synonyms: Passionate, Avid

Antonyms: Half-hearted

32) Campaign

Meaning: An organized course of action to achieve a goal.

Example: “an election campaign”

Synonyms: Effort, Movement

33) Allies

Meaning: A person or organization that cooperates with or helps another in a particular activity; combine or unite a resource or commodity with (another) for mutual benefit.

Example: “he was forced to dismiss his closest political ally”

Synonyms: Associate, Combine

Antonyms: Opponent, Split

34) Engagement

Meaning: An arrangement to do something or go somewhere at a fixed time.

Example: “a dinner engagement”

Synonyms: Appointment, Arrangement

35) Championing

Meaning: Vigorously support or defend the cause of.

Example: “he championed the rights of the working class and the poor”

Synonyms: Promote, Defend

Antonyms: Oppose, Criticize

36) Immigration

Meaning: The action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country.

Example: “a barrier to control illegal immigration from Mexico”

Synonyms: Expatriation

Antonyms: Entrance

37) Backbencher

Meaning: (in the UK) a Member of Parliament who does not hold office in the government or opposition and who sits behind the front benches in the House of Commons.

Example: “he was cheered by Tory backbenchers”

38) Plausibly

Meaning: In a way that seems reasonable or probable.

Example: “both candidates can plausibly claim victory is within their reach”

Synonyms: Possibly

Antonyms: Improperly

39) Inconsistencies

Meaning: The fact or state of being inconsistent.

Example: “the inconsistency between his expressed attitudes and his actual behaviour”

Synonyms: Irregularity, Variability

Antonyms: Consistency, Harmony

40) Overtures

Meaning: An introduction to something more substantial; an approach or proposal made to someone with the aim of opening negotiations or establishing a relationship.

Example: “the talks were no more than an overture to a long debate”

Synonyms: Prelude, Start