Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has said a staff level agreement for a crucial bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was “very close” and expected in the next 24 hours.

The government 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,” Dar told Reuters late on Thursday.

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

READ: Ishaq Dar loses his cool with reporter over question on IMF programme

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 Reuters’ 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 amid 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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