March 22, 2020 / 9:30 PM / 10 days ago

Brazil's BNDES unveils 55 bln reais economic support package to stem coronavirus blow

RIO DE JANEIRO, March 22 (Reuters) - Brazil’s BNDES national development bank on Sunday unveiled a 55 billion reais ($11 billion) package of measures to soften the coronavirus blow to the economy, with a focus on job preservation.

The measures include suspending direct and indirect loan repayments to the BNDES, transferring cash to workers’ ‘FGTS’ severance funds, and making more resources available for micro, small and medium-sized companies.

“The bank has prepared and adjusted for countercyclical action. It is a first step in facing this crisis,” said BNDES president Gustavo Montezano, in a virtual press conference in which President Jair Bolsonaro also participated.

“We are working on sectoral measures too, and we will announce them as soon as we can,” Montezano added.

Bolsonaro said that the government’s objective is to preserve jobs, and appeared to soften his language on coronavirus. After saying recently there was a lot of “hysteria” surrounding the pandemic and its consequences, he said the disease is “something that afflicts us” and a cause for concern.

“I am sure that these (BNDES) measures will be particularly felt in the maintenance of jobs, which is extremely important. We will overcome this coronavirus crisis and keep jobs, because life continues,” Bolsonaro said.

Last week the government unveiled a near-150 billion reais support package, mostly bringing forward social assistance payments, deferring company taxes, and making it easier for people to access workers’ severance funds. (Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Writing by Jamie McGeever; editing by Diane Craft)

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