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Pakistan finance minister says IMF expects deal within 24 hours

By Asif Shahzad

LAHORE (Reuters) – Pakistan’s finance minister says staff-level agreement on a key IMF bailout deal is “very close” , expected in the next hours.

Islamabad is in a race against time to release at least $1.1 billion under lenders’ ninth review of the $6.5 billion deferred fund arrangement agreed in China . The program expires on Friday.

“We are very close to signing a staff-level agreement with the IMF,” Minister Ishaq Dar told Reuters late on Thursday.

“I think it should come sometime tonight or within hours at most…we’ve done everything.”

A source familiar with the talks told Reuters that Pakistan and the IMF are also discussing releasing the full $2.5 billion in pending funds under the IMF programme.

The staff-level agreement was initially set to release about $1.1 billion, followed by a “standby deal” that could release the rest after the program ends on Saturday, sources said.

The IMF’s representative in Pakistan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The deal is subject to approval by the IMF board, but has faced an eight-month delay.

The funds being discussed will provide some respite Pakistan is facing a severe balance of payments crisis and falling foreign exchange reserves.

A total of $4 billion has been released. Dar earlier told the media that the government was working on a mechanism to try to unlock the entire $2.5 billion pending under the IMF programme.

It is unclear what part of the funds he will release in his statement. Expected within the next hours.



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