October 9, 2019 / 10:21 PM / 2 months ago

Brazil pension reform to clear Congress by Oct. 22 - senator

BRASILIA, Oct 9 (Reuters) - President Jair Bolsonaro’s government is confident it will win final Congressional approval for its pension overhaul by Oct. 22 now that lawmakers have agreed on how to share surplus oil revenues, his party’s leader in the Senate said on Wednesday.

Senator Major Olimpio told Reuters that Bolsonaro’s key legislation to reduce a wide budget deficit, an unsustainable gap that worries investors, will certainly pass Congress, but a second “parallel” pension reform bill with contentious issues will have to wait until next year.

Olimpio criticized lawmakers for holding up the pension reform that was vital to signal to financial markets that Brazil was serious about restoring fiscal discipline.

“We need to send that signal. The government has been nine months in office and we still have not delivered on this,” he said in an interview.

The second of two required votes on the initial bill was delayed in the Senate because lawmakers demanded a better deal for their states in the division of the proceeds of the auction of pre-salt oil concessions scheduled for November.

State-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro will receive one third of the 106 billion reais ($25.8 billion) the auction is expected to raise, with another third going to the Treasury and the remainder split 15% each between state and municipal governments. Pre-salt oil producing states, mainly Rio de Janeiro, will get 3% more.

In an agreement struck on Tuesday, party leaders decided on a formula to share the oil revenue between poorer northeastern states and the agricultural exporting states of the south and south-central states.

A bill defining the criteria will be approved by the lower chamber of Congress by Thursday and then in the Senate, clearing the way to pass the pension bill.

But that will not happen next week because many Brazilian politicians are traveling to Rome to attend the canonization by Pope Francis of the first Brazilian-born woman saint, Sister Dulce.

“I’m a Catholic, but this is a joke: there are three jet planes of politicians going to the Vatican on tax payer money, delaying the pension vote by 10 days,” the senator complained.

$1 = 4.1024 reais Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello and Anthony Boadle

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