Brazil Legislators Finally Gather Pace in Pension Reform Push

(Bloomberg) -- After weeks of delays, Brazil’s lower house of Congress is on a roll, pushing ahead the government’s key pension reform by creating a long-awaited committee only days after declaring the bill was constitutional.

Center-right PR party deputy Marcelo Ramos will head a lower house special committee that will debate potential changes to the bill. Committee discussions will take place between May and June, lower house Speaker Rodrigo Maia said on Thursday.

The special committee represents the second step of a tumultuous debate process consisting of a total of seven votes required for the reform’s final approval. Lawmakers’ quick action represents a turn-around from weeks of bickering and delays that put the bill behind schedule and sent jitters through local markets. Both investors and government officials have deemed the reform as essential to cutting debt and jump-starting Latin America’s largest economy.

"We are going to help the country overcome this paralysis," Ramos said in an interview.

Brazil Legislators Finally Gather Pace in Pension Reform Push

The real gained 0.8 percent in early afternoon trading, representing the biggest gain among 24 emerging market currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The benchmark Ibovespa stock exchange gained 1 percent.

In remarks at a separate event on Thursday, President Jair Bolsonaro said he wants to overhaul the pension system as quickly as he can, and added that he hopes the bill passes with as few changes as possible. Still, lawmakers have said the government can expect tough talks in the special committee over central tenants of the bill, including a proposal for a minimum retirement age.

The Lower House Constitution and Justice Committee decided late on Tuesday that the legislation abides by the country’s laws and can proceed in Congress. The vote took place after the government bowed to centrist party demands and altered several points of the proposal.

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