India’s economic growth rate over the next couple of years will be 8—9 per cent, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said on Friday.

India’s strong crisis management and sustained global demand from the 1.2-trillion-dollar economy was playing an important role in helping the world recover from the global economic crisis, Mr. Zoellick said in New Delhi.

“India’s growth rates could over the next one to two years see a return to the 8—9 per cent envisaged in the country’s 11th (five-year) plan,” Mr. Zoellick told reporters at the conclusion of a four-day visit to India during which he held talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The Indian government has pegged the economy’s growth rate for this fiscal year around 6.5 to 7 per cent.

“India has emerged from the economic crisis with a clear vision of what it will take to accelerate back to earlier growth rates and beyond,” said Mr. Zoellick.

“Its strong fiscal and monetary policies had helped counter the decline in exports and withstand some of the external shocks brought on by the multiple food, fuel and financial crisis,” he added.

The World Bank has agreed to loan India 1 billion dollars to help clean the Ganges river, considered sacred to Hindus. The loan to clean up the nearly 3,000-kilometre river, among the most polluted rivers globally, will be disbursed over five years.

“The river has sustained civilization throughout time, but is today burdened by expanding production, industries and urban development along its banks and in its basin, with all the pollution this brings,” Mr. Zoellick said Thursday.

The World Bank has already delivered around 5.3 billion dollars to India this fiscal year with commitments to power, roads, banking, rural development and water. Future resources will be aimed at supporting India s urban development, additional infrastructure needs in transport and power, elementary and secondary education, and development in agriculture and the rural sector, a statement from the bank said.

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