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Britain raises official growth forecasts for 2015 and 2016

[LONDON] Britain raised its official growth forecasts slightly on Wednesday as finance minister George Osborne announced an annual budget statement.

Growth for 2015 was forecast to be 2.5 per cent, up from a forecast of 2.4 per cent made in December, Mr Osborne told parliament.

Growth in 2016 is now expected to reach 2.3 per cent compared with 2.2 per cent in the December forecasts made by Britain's Office for Budget Responsibility.

Mr Osborne said the OBR believed growth would hold at 2.3 per cent in 2017 and 2018 before rising to 2.4 per cent in 2019.

The Bank of England has predicted Britain's economy will grow 2.9 per cent this year and in 2016, helped by the plunge in oil prices that is expected to boost consumption.

The OBR also forecast the unemployment rate would fall to 5.3 per cent this year, down from 5.7 per cent in the three months to January, Mr Osborne said.