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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 November 2005, 10:03 GMT
Strong growth for Indian economy
Indian steel smelter in Bangalore
Manufacturing is growing at more than 10% a year
The Indian economy grew at 8% in the six months to September compared with a year ago, meeting the target for growth set by the finance ministry.

The economy was boosted by growth in the tourism and financial sectors, and a strong manufacturing performance.

High oil prices and sluggish exports failed to dampen the figures.

The data comes after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the country should aim to speed growth to 10% in a few years - if certain criteria were met.

For this to happen, the savings rate needed to increase, agricultural output had to make a "quantum leap" and infrastructure had to be substantially upgraded, Mr Singh said.

Agriculture drive

Government data showed manufacturing growth averaging 10.2% in the six month period, while services continued their strong performance.

Financial and real estate services grew at 9.1% in the first six months of the financial year, compared with the same period a year ago.

"This is much better than expectations," said Rajeev Malik, economist with JP Morgan, Singapore.

"The strength is mainly on account of industry and services, with manufacturing continuing to do quite well."

Mr Singh said the government was giving a big push to agriculture, which has failed to keep pace with the broader economy and has hampered India in its efforts to keep up with China's high growth.

Agricultural output grew at 2% in the six months, unchanged from last year.

Foreign competition

India is one of the world's fastest growing economies, is increasingly open to foreign competition and is attracting increasing amounts of overseas funds.

In total, $8.5bn has been invested in Indian shares from around the world.

There has been rapid growth in manufacturing and business services, such as outsourcing, with large numbers of UK firms offshoring services such as call centre and legal work to India.

Growth has been at an annual rate of about 7% in recent years.

But Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram has said the economy must be more open to foreign competition to accelerate growth even more.

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