March 13, 2019 / 5:10 PM / 9 days ago

Brazil's Bolsonaro sees pension reform passing in first half of 2019: media

FILE PHOTO - Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro waits for Paraguay's President Mario Abdo before a meeting at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro believes Congress will approve his cornerstone pension reform bill in the first half of this year, local media reported him as saying to journalists at a meeting in Brasilia on Wednesday.

Bolsonaro’s bill, which will increase the minimum retirement age for men and women and aims to save around 1.2 trillion reais ($314 billion) over the next decade, was presented to Congress on Feb. 20.

Bolsonaro said he did not think that approval in both houses in the first half of 2019 was too ambitious. Passage in the Senate would be relatively easy because many senators were aware of the importance of overhauling the pension system and the opposition Workers Party would probably back it too, Globo reported him as saying.

Bolsonaro also told journalists that he had personally reached out to lawmakers, Correio Braziliense reported.

On Tuesday, Rogerio Marinho, secretary of social security and labor at the Economy Ministry, told Reuters that the bill was still on track for voting in the lower house by the end of May.

Marinho also said Bolsonaro’s personal support to win over hearts and minds would be critical. “Anything he does will be beneficial, including galvanizing and mobilizing people to get onside with this change that’s so necessary for the country,” Marinho said.

Analysts have said there is significant risk the proposal could be watered down in Congress, with approval unlikely until some time in the second half of 2019. Opponents on the left have said the bill as it stands would hurt poor Brazilians.

($1 = 3.8275 reais)

Reporting by Jamie McGeever, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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