Brazil's Temer says government offered 'all it could' on pension reform

Brazil's President Michel Temer speaks to media during the LAAD, the biggest military industry expo in Latin America, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian President Michel Temer said his government has offered “all it could” to ease lawmakers’ resistance to a landmark pension reform bill, key to rebalance the government’s strained finances, according to an interview published on Saturday.

Temer’s center-right government, which took office last year pledging to tackle Brazil’s massive government deficit, proposed five concessions to wavering congressmen on Friday, amid signs of resistance among legislators to the unpopular reform.

These included easing the rules on the transition to the new system and on rural workers, pensions for police and teachers, as well as benefits for the elderly and disabled.

Temer told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that he would not compromise on the central tenet of the legislation, which is introducing a minimum retirement age. While the government wants a minimum age of 65 for men, it could discuss reducing that for women, if necessary, Temer said.

“If we set the minimum age for men at 65, and 64 or 63 for women, it would not mean a big change,” Temer said, adding that a different age for women is still not under discussion.

The pension plan, submitted last year to Congress, is aimed at curbing a growing deficit in Brazil’s generous pension system, meant to provide rights guaranteed in the country’s 1988 Constitution. It would require more years on the job for workers to gain full pension benefits.

The government said on Friday it faces a deficit in the pension system of 202 billion reais ($64.21 billion) next year.

Temer also said he does not intend to issue any decree exempting workers from the outsourcing law he sanctioned last month, adding he does not see the law harming workers´ rights.

Press representatives at the presidential palace confirmed to Reuters the content of the interview to Folha de S. Paulo.

Reporting by Tatiana Bautzer; Editing by Mary Milliken