Brazil government says jobs, confidence priorities

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil’s interim president, Michel Temer, said in a televised interview Sunday that he hopes to reduce unemployment and bring economic and political calm to Latin America’s biggest country.

Brazil's Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles attends a news conference in Brasilia, Brazil, May 13, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

Temer, a centrist who took over as interim president last week after Brazil’s senate voted to suspend Dilma Rousseff and try her for irregularities in the government budget, said his government would cut public spending where possible and that a reform of Brazil’s pension system was essential.

Repeating a pledge made last week, Temer said the cost-cutting would not affect popular social programs that marked the 13-year rule of Rousseff’s Workers Party.

Brazil’s newly formed government is scrambling to identify economic reforms to revive an economy in its worst recession since the Great Depression. In addition to a gaping budget deficit, it must control near double-digit inflation and rising unemployment.

Temer, who was the leftist Rousseff’s vice president, will remain interim president for the duration of her trial, which could last as long as six months and is expected to lead to her ouster. He said he would not seek the presidency if he serves out the rest of the term, which goes through 2018.

Asked what he would like his legacy to be if he remains in office, Temer said: “reduce unemployment and see a calmed country.”

In the recorded interview with Globo, Brazil’s biggest television network, Temer also said he would not interfere with corruption probes that have upended Brazilian politics in recent years, ensnaring dozens of political and corporate leaders and helping weaken the Rousseff administration.

In a separate interview with the same program, Brazil’s new finance minister, Henrique Meirelles, also said spending cuts would not affect existing social programs and identified “confidence” as the country’s worst economic problem.

Meirelles, a former banking executive who served as central bank president during the first two Workers Party administrations, said the government needs to make up for revenue shortfalls but has not yet decided whether to raise any new taxes, included a much-discussed levy on financial transactions.

The government is also undecided on what form pension reforms will take or by how many years it may plan to raise Brazil’s minimum retirement age, a step Meirelles and economists say is necessary to give long-term stability to the program.

“We are studying all measures to make the country grow again, create jobs and increase income for everyone,” Meirelles said.

Reporting by Paulo Prada; Editing by Chris Reese and Sam Holmes