Brazil pension reform to be voted on May 2; approval remains uncertain

Brazil pension reform to be voted on May 2

The bill's rapporteur made yet another last-minute concession, but the project still faces resistance in Congress
Brazil Business

Congress set May 2 as the date for the initial vote on Brazil pension reform. Once again, the government made concessions, in order to get the necessary votes to approve the highly unpopular bill.

This time, Congressman Arthur Maia, the bill’s rapporteur, included less strict rules for rural workers. The additional change took many congressmen off-guard. “You didn’t think I would present the bill without this little surprise, did you?,” Maia joked today in Congress.

Initially, the reform would treat farm workers as any other career, with the minimum age set at 65. Maia said, though, that women would be allowed to retire at 57. The rule wouldn’t change for men, who will be able to retire by the time they are 60.

Maia had already made some concessions yesterday after law enforcement unions staged protests in Congress. The pressure seemed to work. After the demonstrations, Maia lowered the minimum retirement age for law enforcement agents from 60 to 55.

Brazil pension reform: still unpopular

Last year, the government was not in the mood to negotiate. Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles said that, if Congress were to pass a weak reform, it should drop it altogether. At the time, it seems as if the government had a grip over the legislative agenda – which is clearly not the case.

Even with the concessions, it will take a lot of effort to get the necessary 308 votes. Newspaper Estadão surveyed the house on the matter. So far, only 37 representatives have declared being in favor of the project. Meanwhile, 133 have declared that they won’t support the bill as it is.

The government isn’t even sure that the bill will pass on a special reform committee. If it doesn’t get the majority of the 36 votes in the committee, the bill won’t go to the floor. So far, 13 representatives said they will vote against the reform.

Yesterday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) emphasized Brazil’s need for “ambitious reforms.” In particular, the fund encouraged Brazil to rid itself of “unsustainable” expenses like the pension system, public healthcare, and welfare.