Brazil government frees up $1.5 billion in public spending this year

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The Brazilian government on Wednesday freed up an additional 5.003 billion reais’ ($1.5 billion) worth of federal spending this year as Latin America’s largest economy continued to recover from a deep recession.

Reuters had reported the move earlier, citing a member of the government’s economic team.

The government cut its forecast for primary expenses by 4.566 billion reais, mostly due to lower subsidy expenses. That allowed it to unfreeze public spending even as it reduced its primary revenue forecast by 891.6 million reais.

In a news conference, Planning Minister Dyogo Oliveira said farmers refrained from joining a debt-renegotiation program after its deadline was extended to the end of 2018, providing some relief to subsidy expenses this year.

Brazil’s central government -- comprised of the federal government, the social security system and the central bank -- is likely to post a smaller 2017 primary deficit than the 159 billion real official target, Oliveira said.

He added, however, that the government was likely to announce a fresh spending freeze early in 2018 to account for measures not approved by Congress. Lawmakers have not yet voted on bills raising levies on some investment funds and payroll taxes.

With President Michel Temer’s popularity in the single digits and next year’s elections fast approaching, Congress has shown resistance to his austerity efforts.

Last week, lawmakers delayed until February a key vote on a landmark bill cutting social security spending. The postponement sent financial markets on a tailspin.

Higher tax revenues due to the economic recovery could offset part of the 2018 revenue shortfall, Oliveira said.

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles said he did not rule out raising taxes or cutting spending to that effect.

($1 = 3.29 reais)

Writing by Bruno Federowski; Editing by Matthew Lewis and David Gregorio