August 15, 2017 / 3:59 PM / a year ago

RPT-UPDATE 4-Brazil widens budget deficit goals through 2020

(Repeats with no changes. Adds confirmation of new target, 2019 and 2020 targets)

BRASILIA, Aug 15 (Reuters) - The Brazilian government on Tuesday set a new primary deficit target for this year and next of 159 billion reais ($49.7 billion), the finance minister said, in response to lower-than-expected fiscal revenues.

The government is widening its targets for a budget deficit of 139 billion reais before interest payments this year and 129 billion reais for 2018, bending to the reality that its austerity efforts are coming up short.

The country will also target a deficit of 139 billion reais for 2019, up from 65 billion previously, according to the Finance Ministry’s presentation. For 2020, it will aim for a 65 billion reais deficit compared with a 10 billion reais surplus previously.

The revision underscores the uphill battle for President Michel Temer to maintain support for austerity measures, including a major pension overhaul, as a corruption scandal simmers and next year’s general elections approach.

Members of Temer’s economic team, including Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, previously wanted to wait until September to consider a looser budget target, but agreed to move up talks under pressure from a fractious coalition in Congress that has refused to raise taxes.

Temer’s chief of staff, Eliseu Padilha, confirmed that the government has no plans to raise taxes and is focusing on cutting spending and increasing revenue, which will come in part from private concessions to operate public infrastructure.

Padilha also said a deficit bigger than 159 billion reais was never contemplated in budget talks.

“There was speculation that the target would move to 170 billion reais. That was never under discussion. We are helping the economic team project the numbers and they never exceeded 159 billion reais,” Padilha told reporters. “We are working with a maximum figure of 159, but nothing has been set in stone.”

Those concessions will include Sao Paulo’s Congonhas airport and Rio’s Santos Dumont airport, plus Campinas’ Viracopos airport, which was returned by the previous concessionaire, government sources told Reuters. They said the Minas Gerais electrical utility Cemig will also be sold. ($1 = 3.196 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Marcela Ayres, Lisandra Paraguassu and Maria Carolina Marcello; Additional reporting and writing by Anthony Boadle and Silvio Cascione; Editing by Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker)

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