June 18, 2019 / 2:35 PM / a month ago

Brazil lawmakers open pension debate as Bolsonaro pushes private savings accounts

BRASILIA, June 18 (Reuters) - Brazil’s congressional committee on pension reform began debating a revised bill on Tuesday, as President Jair Bolsonaro urged lawmakers to rethink their move to drop his plan to introduce a retirement system based on private savings accounts.

The debate, which could extend into next week, comes ahead of a committee vote on the bill by June 26, according to lower house Speaker Rodrigo Maia, before it is considered for plenary approval.

Committee Chairman Marcelo Ramos said he hopes for a “calm atmosphere,” unlike recent raucous debates over the government’s polarizing proposal to fix the country’s public finances and revive the flagging economy by cutting social security benefits.

The committee report on the government’s bill last week made substantial amendments, including the removal of private savings accounts, changes to public pensions for states and cities, and retirement rules for older and rural workers.

On Monday, Bolsonaro urged lawmakers to reconsider.

“We would like everything we proposed to be included. But we know Congress has the legitimacy to make changes, and if that’s the case, the government will move on. No problem at all,” Bolsonaro told reporters in Brasilia.

Asked if the government will try to revisit the proposal for private savings accounts, the president added: “In the plenary, it’s not even the government itself, but the caucuses or any party leader can propose an amendment to get voted on.”

The committee report last week reduced planned savings from pension reform over the next decade to 913.4 billion reais ($237 billion) from the government’s targeted 1.237 trillion reais ($321 billion), irking Economy Minister Paulo Guedes. ($1 = 3.8555 reais) (Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Maria Carolina Marcello; Writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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