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Brazilian Lower House supports Bolsonaro's pension reform bill

Friday, July 12th 2019 - 12:06 UTC
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Both O Estado de Sao Paulo and O Globo highlighted that “the House, led by Maia”, took that key step. Both O Estado de Sao Paulo and O Globo highlighted that “the House, led by Maia”, took that key step.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro scored a partial parliamentary victory this week folllowing the first round approval by the Lower House of the pension reform bill, which also meant a severe blow to the country's waning left.

 “Brazil is getting closer and closer to entering the path of employment and prosperity,” Bolsonaro posted on his Twitter account after the ayes got 379 votes against 131 for the nays, with three absentees, which was way above three fifths of the number necessary to approve a such a reform.

The project sets a minimum retirement age of 62 for women and 65 for men, after 40 years of mandatory contributions, an item that is still open for review in the new round of parliamentary discussions, which are expected to be completed as late as early next week, at which time a new round of votes is set to take place.

Economy Minister Paulo Guedes hoped that the reform would save 1.2 trillion reais in 10 years (more than 300 billion US dollars). The changes made already reduced that amount to something less than a trillion reais and could be pruned a little more.

The Sao Paulo Stock Exchange, which closed on Wednesday with its fourth consecutive record of 105,817 points (+ 1.23%) due to the prospects of approval of the reform, operated on Thursday at a loss of 0.60%.

Rodrigo Maia, of the Democratic Party (DEM, center-right) took advantage of the victory to vindicate, visibly moved, the role of Congress, one of the most discredited institutions in the country, which lately was even under fire from Bolsonaro supporters.

“Our leaders lack respect, they are criticised in the wrong way, but it is those leaders who are doing the reforms in Brazil,” he said.

Analysts highlighted the role of this 49-year-old politician, born in 1970 in socialist Salvador Allende's Chile, where his father had fled, escaping Brazil's military dictatorship.

Both O Estado de Sao Paulo and O Globo highlighted that “the House, led by Maia”, took that key step.

Brazil's left views the parliamentary outcome as a consequence of the 'desertions' of 8 of the 27 deputies of the PDT (of former presidential candidate Ciro Gomes) and 11 of the 32 of the Socialist Party (PSB), who voted for the reform, as well as two additional votes from the Green Party.

“My vote for the retirement reform was not bought, it was by conviction,” tweeted young deputy Tabata Amaral, one of the rising figures of the PDT.

“My 'Yes' is not [a yes] to the government, At times like this, we have to look to the future of the country, it is not easy or comfortable, but it is absolutely necessary,” she said after Wednesday's session.

They were unanimous on the other hand in the rejection of the reform of the Workers' Party (PT, of ex-president Lula, with 54 deputies), of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB, 8 deputies) and PSOL (of the assassinated councilor of Rio Marielle Franco, 10 deputies).

According to analyst Thomaz Favaro, this vote aggravates the fracture evidenced in the Brazilian left since 2016. The fact that the government obtained allies “in practically all the central forces and in the left parties increases the significance of this defeat” and allows us to predict that the left “will have many difficulties in blocking the government's agenda in the future,” Favaro told AFP.

Proponents of the reform insist that the current system is a time bomb, due to the demographic evolution of the country. In 2018, 9.2% of the 208.5 million Brazilians were over 65 years old. In 2060, they will be 25.5%.

Its critics emphasize among other things that raising the number of years of contributions will exclude millions of people from the system, in a country where a quarter of private sector workers are informal.

The bill ”reminds me of the era of slavery, when slaves could be freed at age 60 (...), but they died before,” said a Rio de Janeiro analyst.

Categories: Economy, Politics, Brazil.

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