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PM says economy may grow 9-10 percent from 2011/12

The economy is likely to grow between 9 and 10 percent from the next fiscal year that starts from April 1, after growing 8.5 percent in the current fiscal year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday.

India's domestically-powered economy grew 8.9 percent in the September quarter -- matching the revised figure for the previous quarter -- defying weakness elsewhere. Singh's forecast was above the previous official forecast of 9 percent.

"Despite the uncertain global economic scenario, I am happy that our economic recovery is progressing very well," Singh told the annual meeting of non-resident Indians in New Delhi.

"We expect that from the next year onwards, we will be able to grow at a rate between 9 and 10 percent."

India, Asia's third largest economy, grew at an average of 9.5 percent for three years to the year ending March 2008, before being hit by a global downturn that slowed the pace of annual economic expansion to 6.7 percent in 2008/09.

Even as the economic recovery seems to be on track, Singh's government is under pressure to rein in inflation, particularly soaring food prices.

India's annual food inflation accelerated to 18.3 percent in the week to Dec. 25, its highest level in more than a year, from 14.4 percent in the previous week.

Although unseasonal rains are officially blamed for pushing up prices of vegetables such as onions and tomatoes, some commentators point instead to poor agricultural productivity and transport after years of few reforms and weak government investment.

Food articles have a weight of 14.34 percent in the wholesale price index , India's most widely watched gauge of inflation, but a relentless rise in food prices is seen stoking broader inflationary expectations and eroding purchasing power of consumers.

Singh remained silent on inflation, but Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee -- speaking at the same event -- acknowledged the need to control it.

"We have to take all measures to keep inflation at a moderate level," Mukherjee said.


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