RABAT - Morocco's central bank raised its benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points to 2% on Tuesday, citing the need to ensure price stability amid soaring inflation.

Driven by higher foodstuffs and fuel prices, inflation is expected to surge to 6.3% in 2022, from 1.4% in 2021, before easing to 2.4% in 2023, the bank said in a statement following its quarterly board meeting.

The bank expects economic growth to drop to 0.8% this year, down from 7.9% in 2021, after the worst drought in decades.

The current account deficit is seen widening in 2022 to 3.2% partly due to an energy imports bill that is expected to hit 135 billion dirhams.

Key to Morocco's inflow of hard currency, remittances by Moroccans abroad are expected to hit a record 100 billion dirhams ($9.1 bln) while tourism revenue is on track to reach pre-pandemic levels.

Morocco's foreign currency reserves would stand at 343.7 billion dirhams this year and 360.7 billion dirhams next year, enough to cover six months of imports, the bank said.

(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; editing by David Evans)