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Pakistan, IMF Launch Final Round Of Talks On $8 Billion Bailout

A protest in Islamabad last year against a proposed IMF bailout.

Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have begun the final round of negotiations over the $8 billion rescue package for Islamabad amid a deepening economic crisis.

The long-delayed package, which is expected to be signed next month would be Pakistan's 13th bailout since the late 1980s.

"The talks aim to determine the terms and conditions of the three-year program," India’s NDTV reported, quoting an unnamed official at the Pakistani Finance Ministry.

The meeting that began in Islamabad on April 29 comes as the IMF issued a report on Mideast and regional economies, saying that Pakistan's economic growth is expected to slow from about 5 percent last year to close to 3 percent this year.

Inflation in Pakistan was over 9.4 percent in March, its highest since November 2013, with strong increases in food and energy, the two most sensitive items for most consumers.

Pakistan was last year expected to sign up for the bailout program, but Pakistani officials complained that the conditions attached to the proposed IMF loans could hurt the country's economic growth.

The IMF demands full disclosure of all financial cooperation between Pakistan and China, which would include infrastructure development assistance, nuclear power plants, joint manufacturing of warplanes, and procurement of submarines.

The lender also wants details of more than $6.5 billion of commercial loans Pakistan has received from China in the past 2 1/2 years.

NDTV reported that Pakistan was already taking measures to fulfill some of the preconditions to increase exports, widen the tax base, and adjust the exchange rate.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who took office in August 2018, has promised to improve the economy and provide more jobs.

The talks are expected to last till May 7.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, dpa