The path Brazil’s pension reform must take in Congress

. Feb 18, 2019
The path Brazil's pension reform must take in Congress

The Jair Bolsonaro administration has promised to present Congress with a broad pension reform bill this week. Despite being just over a month in office, the government is not looking to hang about—and with good reason. For one, because the pension system reform is one of the few reasons why market investors jumped on the Jair Bolsonaro bandwagon in last year’s election. Meanwhile, governors are desperate for a review of pension benefits, as the ratio between retired and active servants is now at 9 for every 10.

But for Jair Bolsonaro himself, the main reason to kick on with the reform will be the need to diverge attention away from the major political crisis within his government—with the president’s Secretary General accused of electoral fraud.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Approving the pension reform will be anything but easy. House Speaker Rodrigo Maia has said the government remains short of the necessary 308 votes in order to pass the bill—and he has promised to follow every step in the congressional protocol, without cutting corners, to avoid any potential judicial challenge to the future reform legislation. Combine that with the Carnival holidays (between February 27 and March 11), and we&#8217;re in for a very lengthy process.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To follow the required steps—and still manage to get things done in 2019—Mr. Maia has suggested an intense congressional schedule, including votes from Monday through Friday (even though Brazilian congressmen&#8217;s working schedule normally goes between Tuesday and Thursday). In these cases, what parties normally do is to have congressmen &#8220;on call&#8221; in order to reach the minimum quorum necessary for sessions to begin—while the rest of the House enjoys the long weekend.</span></p> <h2>First things first</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While the government is set to present its bill this week, it is expected to start being analyzed by congressmen only after March 11. That&#8217;s because the House has yet to choose all the members of its Constitution and Justice Committee (CCJ)—responsible for analyzing every single piece of legislation which goes through the chamber. Party leaders expect the picks for the CCJ should be finalized by the Carnival holidays.</span></p> <h2>Filibustering the pension reform</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Left-wing opposition to the pension reform is expected to use all kinds of delay tactics—such as registering for questions and debates about the bill, asking for more time to analyze the articles proposed by the government, as well as filing objections. If the government&#8217;s coalition has enough political muscle, Speaker Rodrigo Maia could be able to block such attempts.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Maia has declared it would be possible to approve the pension reform by July—an over-optimistic projection. According to forecasts by Arko Advice, a Brasília-based political consultancy, September would be a more realistic expectation (while still very optimistic).</span></p> <p><script id="infogram_0_57ce676f-a36c-4125-8740-201e6833d9d7" title="Column Chart" src="" type="text/javascript"></script></p> <div style="padding: 8px 0; font-family: Arial!important; font-size: 13px!important; line-height: 15px!important; text-align: center; border-top: 1px solid #dadada; margin: 0 30px;"><a style="color: #989898!important; text-decoration: none!important;" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Column Chart</a><br /> <a style="color: #989898!important; text-decoration: none!important;" href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener">Infogram</a></div> <p>

Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

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