August 6, 2019 / 8:30 PM / a year ago

Brazil pension reform could clear lower house by Wednesday -speaker

BRASILIA, Aug 6 (Reuters) - A bill overhauling Brazil’s pension system could win final approval in the lower chamber of Congress by Wednesday night, Speaker Rodrigo Maia said on Tuesday, paving the way for Senate passage in September.

Maia told reporters he expected the pension reform bill to pass with about the same support it had on in the first round of voting on July 10, when it passed by 379 votes to 131. That was 71 more votes than needed for a constitutional amendment.

That vote sent Brazil’s benchmark Bovespa stock index to an all-time high as investors welcomed the prospect of Latin America’s largest nation bringing its huge budget deficit under control by reducing the cost of social security.

“I expect we can conclude the second vote on Wednesday night and send the bill to the Senate on Thursday,” Maia said.

The bill raises the minimum retirement age and reduces some workers’ benefits, is the cornerstone of President Jair Bolsonaro’s economic agenda.

Economists say a solid economic recovery depends on the reform measure, but it has faced stiff opposition since it will mean Brazilians must work more years for their pensions. Still, most lawmakers have decided that the deficit problem must be tackled.

Presidential Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni said after meeting Maia that the government may lose “one or two votes” at most this time around, but the bill will sail through. (Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello and Ricardo Brito Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by David Gregorio)

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