© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is seen after a party meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan September 26, 2017. Picture taken September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood/File Photo

By Asif Shahzad

LAHORE (Reuters) -Pakistan’s finance minister said a staff level agreement for a crucial bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund was “very close” and expected in the next 24 hours.

Islamabad is racing against time to unlock at least $1.1 billion under the lender’s ninth review of a $6.5-billion Extended Fund Facility agreed in 2019. The programme 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 some time tonight or maximum within 24 hours … We have finalised everything.”

A source familiar with talks told Reuters that Pakistan and the IMF were also in discussions for the release of the full $2.5 billion pending under the IMF programme.

The source said the staff level agreement was to set to initially unlock around $1.1 billion and then be followed by a “standby agreement” which could release the rest after the programme finishes on Saturday.

A representative for the IMF in Pakistan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The agreement, which would be subject to approval by the IMF board, has faced an eight-month delay.

The funds under discussion would offer some respite to Pakistan which is battling an acute balance of payments crisis and falling foreign exchange reserves.

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

It was unclear what portion of the funds would be released in the announcement he expected in the next 24 hours.


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