LAHORE (Reuters): Pakistan’s finance minister said late on Thursday that 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.

“I think it should come some time tonight or maximum within 24 hours … We have finalised everything.”

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 said the government was working on a mechanism to try to unlock the full $2.5 billion pending under the IMF programme, beyond the $1.1 billion expected under the ninth review that is under discussion.

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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