Buenos Aires Times

latin america Lawmakers remain hesitant

Temer pressures Brazilian Congress to approve controversial pension reform bill, points to Macri’s success

The centerpiece policy of scaling back pensions has been met with dismay by most Brazilians, but economists have considered it vital to bring the country's deficit under control.

Tuesday 26 December, 2017
Brazil's President Michel Temer, left, talks with Argentine President Mauricio Macri, before the official photo of the 2017 Mercosur and Associated States Summit of Heads of State.
Brazil's President Michel Temer, left, talks with Argentine President Mauricio Macri, before the official photo of the 2017 Mercosur and Associated States Summit of Heads of State. Foto:AP-Eraldo Peres

Brazil President Michel Temer took advantage of his Christmas message broadcast Sunday night to once again urge the Congress to approve his controversial pension reform plan. 

However, Temer faces an uphill battle in Brasilia were lawmakers are dragging their feet against an unpopular bill that could cost them votes in next year's election.

Referencing the recent approval of pension reform in Argentina, Temer insisted the issue is not "ideological or partisan" — but rather a "question of the future of the country" to "guarantee pensioners of today and tomorrow their pensions”. He said Argentina had "set an example by passing its (pension) reform".

The centerpiece policy of scaling back pensions has been met with dismay by most Brazilians, but economists have considered it vital to bring the country's deficit under control.

Brazil's Congress has proven to be a headache for reformist Temer. Around 10 days ago, the vote was postponed until next year, in a move opposing the president. The government coalition needs to gather 308 of 512 Lower House votes, and only a handful of lawmakers have openly supported the measure.

Temer, a conservative who came to power in 2016 following the impeachment of leftwing Dilma Rousseff, has faced controversy in 2017, facing two now-dropped corruption charges and a struggle to approve unpopular austerity measures.

But, without referencing the scandals that have surrounded his presidency, Temer focused his Christmas message on Brazil's economic achievements, branding 2017 "a year of great challenges for all of us."

"In a short space of time, we got the economy in order, came out of recession and we have interest rates lower than recent years," he said.

The GDP of Latin America's largest economy rose 0.6 percent in the first nine months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016 after two years of recession — which saw GDP shrink 3.5 percent in 2015 and 3.6 percent in 2016.

The rise did not boost Temer's popularity, however, with 71 percent of Brazilians expressing disapproval in a recent poll.

"We don't adopt populist models, nor do we hide from reality," Temer said, adding his government does not wait for "miracles."

The 77-year-old has confirmed multiple times that he will not run for re-election next October.

-AP/TIMES

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