* Polish inflation and interest rates - bit.ly/2lbUG00
* Rates forecast reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=cpurl://apps.cp./Apps/econ-polls
By Jeremy Gaunt and Pawel Florkiewicz
LONDON/WARSAW, March 3 (Reuters) - The last time Polish inflation was as high as it is today, interest rates were at 4.25 percent, more than 180 basis points above the pace at which the cost of living was rising.
The gap is currently the other way round, a negative 30 basis points.
The relative rarity of this situation can be seen in this graph - bit.ly/2lbUG00
For the first time since December 2011, the reference rate is lower than year-on-year consumer inflation. Such an occurrence has only been seen for a combined 10 months over the last two decades.
Poland's monetary policy has remained conservative over that period, refraining from central bank-led quantitative easing and keeping rates a significant margin above inflation.
The interest rate has been at the record low level of 1.5 percent since March 2015. But January's year-on-year change in the consumer price index was 1.8 percent, the highest since the end of 2012.
A Reuters poll also points to it rising this year to as high 2.2 percent, with another poll showing rates remaining stable until a hike in early 2018. reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=cpurl://apps.cp./Apps/econ-polls
The central bank's noises suggest it remains happy enough with this to keep rates steady.
Governor Adam Glapinski said last month that rate-setters were not discussing whether to raise rates in 2017 and all agreed that a wait-and-see strategy was optimal for now.
That would mean that negative inflation-adjusted rates could remain in place throughout the year - which would be the longest period in Poland's modern history, unless the central bankers reconsider and hike at some point later this year.
Additional reporting by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Toby Chopra