Indian media: Economy is 'crying for reforms'
Media are pondering whether official predictions that the Indian economy is set to grow at a rate of more than 5% in 2014-15 are realistic and offer advice on what has to be done to revive the country's fortunes.
The forecast is part of the annual government Economic Survey, which is viewed as a roadmap for the country's federal budget to be unveiled on Thursday.
The Hindu says that the report has "done a commendable job in delineating the contours of an economy that has been struggling for more than two years to grow at more than 5%". The daily acknowledges that "a change in government has certainly brought about a sharp variation in sentiment". But it warns that it is too early to assess what impact the new administration of PM Narendra Modi, with its promise of reform, will have on the real economy.
"The Narendra Modi touch, or the 'Modinomics'… is missing from the Economic Survey document. The only thing new in the survey is the revelation that the fiscal situation is worse than what was being projected by the Manmohan Singh government," says The Asian Age.
For the Business Standard, the report "clearly does attempt to lay out a reform road map". It adds, however, that a growth projection of between 5.4% and 5.9% is "rather optimistic". The government must "transit from merely outlining a wish list to presenting an effective strategy", concludes the paper.
"The economy is crying for reforms," Sudip Bhattacharyya writes in The Pioneer. He advises that in order to "put India on the path to growth" the government must take important steps. Among them is an overhaul of the public sector, "since it is afflicted by graft, inefficiency and incompetence", and a "focus on small and medium enterprises".
"All is not lost yet," says the Hindustan Times. The year "2014-15 and the next couple of years may well define the story of Indian economy's great come-from-behind innings", the paper predicts. "Quick decision-making and speedier implementation are vital to overhaul India's collapsing infrastructure."
The Indian Express is also optimistic. "There is already some evidence of an industrial growth pickup, including improving car sales and investment plans announced by capital goods firms, and the projections made in the survey do not seem way off," says the paper.
Meanwhile, cigarette prices soared in Delhi on Wednesday, following rumours that the new budget would impose a steep rise in taxes on tobacco products, the Deccan Herald reports.
The speculation "resulted in a 35% hike in the prices of cigarettes… Moreover, several cigarette brands are not available in stores as a result of massive hoarding," the paper adds.
Moving on to other news, the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are in the grip of a severe electricity crisis, says the Deccan Chronicle.
"People in both states continue to suffer longer power cuts than is usual for this time of the year" as the states disagree over numerous issues, such as sharing coal for power generation and scheduling supply from hydroelectric plants, the daily explains.
Telangana was carved out as a separate state from Andhra Pradesh last month, but issues continue over the division of resources.
And finally, the Defence Ministry has ruled that the Indian air force (IAF) will not use three helicopters acquired in a controversial deal with arms major AgustaWestland in 2010, the Deccan Herald reports.
The helicopters were never inducted into the IAF due to bribery allegations associated with the deal, which is now being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation.