Pakistan, IMF open talks to unlock crucial funding - ministry

FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif attends a summit on climate resilience in Pakistan, months after deadly floods in the country, at the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, January 9, 2023. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Cash-strapped Pakistan on Tuesday began the much-waited talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to unlock stalled funding, the country's finance ministry said.

More than $1 billion funding has been delayed since November last year over fiscal consolidation issues as part of the lender's ninth review of its Extended Fund Facility, which is meant to help countries facing a balance-of-payment crisis.

Pakistan secured a $6 billion IMF bailout in 2019, which was topped up with another $1 billion last year.

Unlocking the funding is crucial for the South Asian economy as its foreign exchange reserves have dropped to cover just three weeks of imports.

The IMF delegation is led by mission chief Nathan Porte, while Pakistan's Finance Minister Ishaq Dar led his team.

"He briefed the mission on fiscal and economic reforms and measures being taken by the Government in different sectors including bridging the fiscal gap, exchange rate stability and in energy sector," the finance ministry said in a statement.

It said the teams discussed and reviewed the economic and fiscal policies and reforms agenda to accomplish the ninth review.

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Arun Koyyur)

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