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Brazil to push social security reform after vote on Temer

IANS | Rio de Janeiro |

After the Chamber of Deputies voted to dismiss charges against President Michel Temer for corruption, the government is focusing on social security reform, Brazil's Chief of Staff Eliseu Padilha has said.

Padilha on Thursday said the measure is necessary to ensure the security of Brazil's accounts.

"Brazil's accounts cannot get completely out of hand. We must resume and finish the social security reform," he told the G1 news site, Xinhua reported.

The House voted on Wednesday to dismiss the charges of corruption against President Temer, by 263 votes against 227. The victory was solid but not impressive, and certain representatives from Temer's own PMDB party, and other allies, voted in favour of a trial.

Now, the government is seeking a political win and wants a vote on social security reform as soon as possible. The reform has been one of Temer's pet projects, but the government has more pragmatic reasons to seek the approval sooner than later.

The President still can be charged with obstruction of justice, which would lead to a new vote in the House to admit the charges, further delaying approval of the reform.

In addition, the social security reform is a constitutional amendment and requires a two-thirds majority in Congress to be approved. This may be difficult to obtain at a time when Temer and his government have a approval rating of just 5 per cent.

The reform itself is also controversial. While the government states Brazil has a yawning social security deficit, which needs reform to honor future pensions, critics have dismissed this as a lie.

The Opposition claims the numbers presented by the administration do not take into consideration extra sources of funding, which actually mean social security has a surplus, not a deficit.

In addition, critics say the reform will make it harder for Brazilians to retire, especially poor workers from sectors such as agriculture and construction, who currently enjoy lower retirement ages.