Brazil lower house approves constitutional amendment allowing Bolsonaro to spend more

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BRASILIA (Businesshala) – Brazil’s lower house of Congress on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment that would allow far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to increase welfare spending ahead of elections by an additional 92 billion ($16.5 billion) next year. ) will allow spending.

FILE PHOTO: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures during the ceremony for the Modernization of Occupational Health and Safety Regulations at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil October 7, 2021. Businesshala/Useli Marcelino/File photo

The chamber voted 323-172 in the second vote required to change the constitution, and the measure now moves to the Senate, where Bolsonaro has said it may face resistance.

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The amendment would spread the government’s court-ordered payments of certain debts and judicial settlements, allowing it to spend more on social welfare programs. This has worried financial markets that increased spending will deepen Brazil’s budget deficit.

Bolsonaro earlier on Tuesday pressured lawmakers to support the amendment, saying in a local media interview that if the government was forced to pay all court orders due next year, it would “bankrupt Brazil”. “

His opponents said, however, that the bill was intended to circumvent constitutional spending limits so that the government could double down on social welfare programs in a populist campaign to win votes in next year’s presidential election.

The amendment is important for the government to be able to fund a revamped welfare program called Auxilio Brasil, which will replace the long-running Bolsa Familia program launched by leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. .

Bolsonaro plans to double the monthly stipend to 400 reais ($73) and expand the program to cover 17 million poor families.

“The Bolsa Familia lasted 18 years and did not require a change in the constitution to be funded. Its purpose is to buy votes in next year’s elections,” said Beira do Pindare, a congressman for the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB).

He said the government had used a “secret budget” of pork-barrel earmarks to encourage lawmakers to pass the measure.

Bolsonaro is expected to face Lula in the election next October, although neither has officially announced his candidacy.

Opinion polls suggest that seven out of 10 Brazilians will choose one or the other as their first choice for president, with the poll showing Lula with a comfortable lead at the moment.

($1 = 5,5103 reais)

Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello and Ricardo Brito; Written by Anthony Bodley and Gabriel Stargarder; Editing by Peter Cooney

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