A man holds Ghana's cedi notes in Accra in this file picture.

Accra - Ghana’s central bank kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged to help support growth in the West African economy after tightening monetary policy at an emergency meeting two months ago.

The Monetary Policy Committee left the rate at 18 percent, Governor Kofi Wampah told reporters in the capital, Accra today.

That was in line with the forecasts of five out of nine economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

The rest had predicted an increase of between 1 and 2 percentage points.

Ghana is struggling to curb inflation that’s surged to a four-year high, fuelled by a currency that lost a fifth of its value against the dollar last year.

Policy makers raised the key rate by 200 basis points on February 6, a day after introducing currency controls.

That didn’t stop Fitch Ratings from lowering Ghana’s debt outlook last week to negative from stable, five months after downgrading the rating by one level to B.

“The risk to inflation remains high,” Wampah said.

“However, the committee is of the view that the impulses of the recent monetary policy hike are still working through the system.”

Growth in West Africa’s second-biggest economy after Nigeria is expected to slow to 4.8 percent this year from 5.5 percent in 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Policy makers raised the limit of reserves that commercial lenders must hold with the central bank to 11 percent from 9 percent, Wampah said.

Inflation quickened to 14 percent in February, fuelled by a government decision last year to scrap subsidies on gasoline and diesel. An increase in water and electricity tariffs pushed consumer prices up further.

The cedi fell 0.2 percent to 2.6950 against the dollar as of 12:14 p.m. in Accra, extending its loss for this year to 12 percent. - Bloomberg News