India issues optimistic economic growth forecast

A man walks past television screens showing an advertisement for a program on India"s annual budget at an electronics shop in Mumbai in this February 22, 2013 The survey comes ahead of India's budget announcement on Thursday

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India's growth rate is set to rise over the coming year after two years of slowdown, according to a forecast from the finance ministry.

The ministry released its figures in an economic survey ahead of the unveiling of the budget on Thursday.

It predicts that economic growth in 2013-14 will be between 6.1% to 6.7%, after having fallen to 5% in 2012-13.

However, the survey calls for more action on job creation and widening the tax base.

India's recent slow growth has been blamed on several factors, not least the sharp slowdown in its manufacturing and services sectors.

"Despite the slowdown, the services sector has shown more resilience to worsening external conditions than agriculture and industry," the ministry's report says.

The survey predicts that nearly half the additions to the Indian labour force over the period 2011-2030 will be in the 30-49 age group and says more needs to be done to provide this group with jobs in "higher-productivity" sectors.

The recent decline in growth "is a wake-up call for increasing the pace of actions and reforms," the survey says.

However, recent government reforms to open retail, insurance and aviation sectors to foreign investment as a way of stimulating growth have sparked opposition.

Last week, all India's major unions held a two-day strike, in part prompted by the reform plans.

A one-day strike against reforms last September shut down some cities and cost Asia's third-largest economy millions of dollars in lost business.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says the reforms will "help strengthen our growth process and generate employment in these difficult times".

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