India logs 8.9 pct first quarter growth, beats forecasts

NEW DELHI, Sept 29, 2006 (AFP) – India, the world’s second-fastest growing major economy after China, beat most forecasts Friday by reporting 8.9 percent growth in the first quarter to June, official data showed. The robust performance, driven by strong manufacturing, services and construction numbers, came as the ruling Congress-led coalition marked the midway point in its five-year electoral mandate.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram hailed the showing, especially of the manufacturing sector which expanded by 11.3 percent, and said the government aimed to make India a global “manufacturing hub in a dozen or two industries.”

The service sector, which accounts for over half of GDP, grew by 13.2 percent while construction expanded by 9.5 percent, according to the data from the Central Statistical Organisation.

The pace of overall growth lagged the record 9.3 percent posted in the final three months of the financial year to March 2006 but was still above economists’ forecasts of 8.5 to 8.7 percent.

“It has obviously been a strong set of numbers,” said Bidisha Ganguly, chief economist at brokerage BRICS Securities.

But agriculture, which accounts for nearly a quarter of GDP, grew by just 3.4 percen