Lukewarm Talks on Pension Bill Force Brazil's Economy Minister to Step In

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s economy minister Paulo Guedes is to start negotiating directly with lawmakers over pension reform, due to concerns the rest of the government has made little progress selling the key proposal in Congress.

As soon as Carnival finishes Guedes will meet groups of up to 10 legislators to discuss the plan and insist on the need for savings of at least one trillion reais ($264 billion), according to a government official familiar with his thinking who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The economic team was prepared for the fact that many of the controversial elements of the reform, such as changes to welfare and farm workers pensions, were likely to be watered down in Congress. But it was blindsided by President Jair Bolsonaro’s reported willingness to back down so quickly on a minimum retirement age for women, the person said, after Guedes had already conceded to the president’s request to cut it from 65 to 62.

Another member of the economic team, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that while Rogerio Marinho, the pensions secretary, was doing a good job selling the reform, the government needed more firepower. Guedes’ team has not been impressed by the negotiating skills of Onyx Lorenzoni, the cabinet chief, the person said.

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