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Temer’s pension reforms face stiff opposition
February 3, 2018, 9:57 am

Brazil’s unions have planned a day of struggle to protest Temer’s proposed social security reform bill. The president is already very unpopular in Brazil; polls show voters want him to be accountable for alleged corruption [Xinhua]

Brazilian President Michel Temer is facing a tide of opposition regarding his promise to reform the social security program.

Many among his supporters see the reform initiative as damaging to their relection bids in the general election next October.

But in an interview aired on Brazilian TV on Friday night, Temer said the reform bill had not been defeated.

According to the constitution, Temer’s already watered down proposal requires 308 of 513 votes in congress to pass. His supporters say they have around 270 right now, up by about 40 since October.

Some analysts expect Temer and his Democratic Movement Party to make further concessions in the first few weeks of the year to bridge the deficit in supporting votes.

In the meantime, Brazilian unions have scheduled street protests for February 19 as a “national day of struggle” – the day the lower house of Congress is expected to vote on the reform bill – to voice popular opposition to Temer’s reform package.

Temer has said that he wants to lift the retirement age, for example, well into the 60, easing the burden on the national coffers. Temer’s proposal would have men retiring at 65 and women at 62.

Most Brazilians in the public sector retire in their mid to late 50s.

In the rural industries, women will retire at 55 and men at 60, according to the proposal.

He also wants to reform the public pension regimen.

To be eligible for full pension, employees in the public sector will have to work 25 years; in the private sector, 40 years.

Temer has said that overhauling the pension system is necessary to cap government spending, which some economists say was overblown and a factor in the recession since 2014.

But most social activists are angry that Brazilian politicians are insisting on the need for cuts in benefits and public services even as evidence grows that they benefited personally from illegal kickbacks on overinflated contracts. President Temer is also facing charges of taking multimillion-dollar bribes.

The proposal to modernize Brazil’s labor laws, some of which date back to the 1940s, is backed by Brazilian businesses so they can lower labor costs that allegedly undercut their ability to compete in foreign markets.

By Firas Al-Atraqchi with inputs from Agencies

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