Moroccan government expects economy to grow by 4.5 percent in 2017: source

September 8, 2016 6:04 AM EDT

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RABAT (Reuters) - The Moroccan government expects the country's gross domestic product to grow 4.5 percent in 2017, up from less than 2 percent in 2016 after the worst drought in decades, a government source said on Thursday.

A budget deficit of 3 percent of GDP is expected, down from 3.5 percent in 2016, as the country continues to repair its public finances after huge deficits in 2012.

Morocco's drought slashed its cereal harvest to 3.35 million tonnes, down 70 percent from 2015's record 11 million tonnes.

The source said the government has forecast the 4.5 percent growth in the 2017 national budget, which will be based on a medium cereal crop of 7 million tonnes.

The source declined to be named because the figures will come out officially in the draft of next year's budget.

Agriculture accounts for about 15 percent of Morocco's economy and is the country's biggest employer, accounting for nearly 35 percent its workforce, although the majority of cereal-planted areas are small properties owned by subsistence farmers.

Morocco's central bank expects the economy to grow 1.2 percent in 2016, slowing sharply from 4.4 percent in 2015.

Morocco has done more than most North African countries to make painful changes required by international lenders to curb deficits, such as ending fuel subsidies and freezing public- sector hiring. The government still controls the prices of soft wheat and cooking gas.

(Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi, editing by Larry King)

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