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How to reform Brazil’s pension system

In 1998, then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso tried to overhaul Brazil’s pension system. Cardoso had just won re-election — without even needing a runoff— but he faced fierce opposition.

His administration suffered multiple losses in Congress, and the reform ended up passing nearly four years later — and by that point, it wasn’t much of a reform, rather a tweak that only postponed the problem.

Cardoso’s successor, Lula, also tackled the pension system — but in a much less ambitious way. He focused on public servants, who earn more money than most and have better benefits upon retirement.

After four months of congressional battles, general strikes, and violent protests — the government did manage to pass something. Once again, however, it did not solve the problem, it only bought the country some time.

A couple of years ago, Michel Temer presented his own pension reform. But after successive corruption scandals, he lost much of his political capital and the bill was butchered in Congress, not even making it to a vote.

Now, the Jair Bolsonaro administration has submitted his own bill to reform Brazil’s pension system. And it is the most ambitious we’ve seen — or the harshest, depending on how you see it.

Will his administration be able to succeed where so many others failed?

On this podcast

Gustavo Ribeiro jornalista vejaGustavo Ribeiro has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets, including Veja, Época, Folha de São Paulo, Médiapart and Radio France Internationale. He is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Abril Prize for outstanding political journalism. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

Monica de Bolle brazilian economistMonica de Bolle is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the director for Latin American studies and emerging markets at Johns Hopkins University. Named as “Honored Economist” in 2014 by the Order of Brazilian Economists for her contributions to the Brazilian policy debate, Ms. de Bolle focuses on macroeconomics, foreign exchange policy, monetary and fiscal policy, trade and inequality, financial regulation, and capital markets.

Natália Tomé Scalzaretto is a Journalist graduated from Faculdade Cásper Líbero. Currently is studying Digital Marketing at Universidade Anhembi Morumbi. She worked in companies such as Santander Brasil and Reuters News, where she covered news ranging from commodities to technology. Most recently, worked as an Editor for Trading News, the information division from TradersClub investor community.Natália Scalzaretto has worked for companies such as Santander Brasil and Reuters, where she covered news ranging from commodities to technology. Most recently, she worked as an editor for Trading News, the information division from TradersClub investor community.


This podcast was produced by Edmund Ruge, is a freelance journalist based in Rio de Janeiro. He holds a Master’s Degree in International Economics and Latin American Studies from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

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BY The Brazilian Report

We are an in-depth content platform about Brazil, made by Brazilians and destined to foreign audiences.