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But the countries that suffered the highest death tolls say they lack "the" funds to finance it.

In the sentence above, why is there "the" in front of the word funds? In the whole passage that this sentence was included, the "funds" were not mentioned beforehand.

From what I know, "the" is used to indicate specific nouns that have mentioned earlier in the context or a representative noun (as in "the police" or "the people"). And "the" in this case does not seem to fit into any of the two..

How should I make sense of this usage of a definite article?

I would greatly appreciate your help! Thanks!

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But the countries that suffered the highest death tolls say they lack the funds to finance it.

We use the definite article for a number of reasons, not only to refer to something previously mentioned. In this case, it is used because something is specific and uniquely identifiable. The article shows that there are no specific funds to finance something in particular.

The word "funds", as well as being the plural of 'fund', is used as an uncountable noun and simply means "money". That is how it is being used here, so it would be inappropriate to use the indefinite article "a".

If you omitted the article and just said "the countries... lack funds" that could imply they have no money whatsoever. Likely they do, but their money will be tied up in other things and they cannot stretch to financing the disaster recovery in question.

So by saying they "lack the funds" it is clear that they do not have the money for this specific thing. It would be exactly the same if the word "money" had been used - we would say they lack the money (the specific money needed) rather than say they "lack money", which would mean they didn't have any.

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