| MEXICO CITY
MEXICO CITY India's economy should expand by 5.5 percent to 6.0 percent this year and return to 7 percent growth in 2013, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told Reuters on Sunday, although he said inflation was at an "unacceptable" level.
"I'm looking forward to this year ending with 5.5-6 percent growth, barring any unexpected shocks, and next year getting back to 7 percent growth, and in 2014-15 getting back to 8 percent growth," he said in an interview at a G20 meeting in Mexico.
The International Monetary Fund last month slashed its 2012 economic growth forecast for India to 4.9 percent from 6.1 percent previously.
But Chidambaram was more optimistic and said India had the wherewithal to reach its economic potential.
"In 2004-2008 we had 9 percent plus growth. It's not as though we have not done it before," he said. "We have slowed down thanks to the world and some domestic factors, but we are absolutely confident that we will get back to the higher-growth path."
Chidambaram said he also concerned about inflation, which hit a 10-month high of 7.8 percent in September.
"We must learn to live with some inflation, but inflation cannot be at an unacceptable level. Today it is at an unacceptable level," he said.
India's central bank left interest rates unchanged at 8 percent last week, defying government pressure to lower rates for the first time since April.
Rate cut expectations had grown after Chidambaram outlined a recent plan to cut the country's hefty fiscal deficit and boost growth. The bank's announcement failed to calm markets, pushing bond yields and swap rates higher.
The Reserve Bank of India cut its GDP growth forecast for Asia's third-largest economy this fiscal year to 5.8 percent from 6.5 percent previously. It raised its inflation projection in March to 7.5 percent from a previous 7 percent.
But Chidambaram said that with a combination of monetary policy, spending cuts, and a tightening of tax collection, India could lower the deficit and foster growth.
"I'm confident that with determination, hard work, and some pain, we will be able to contain the fiscal deficit at 5.3 percent," Chidambaram said.
He also rejected the possibility that India might suffer a ratings downgrade, after rating agency Standard & Poor's recently said the country faces a one-in-three chance of a credit rating downgrade to junk over the next two years
"India certainly does not deserve a downgrade and we are taking steps that will contain the fiscal situation."
(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Kieran Murray and Chizu Nomiyama)