BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Michel Temer has postponed meetings scheduled for Thursday to discuss a crucial pension reform vote as he recovers well in hospital following minor surgery, his office said, and he will not be back on the job until Friday.
Temer was due to swear in Congressman Carlos Marun as his political affairs minister who will be charged with drumming up support for an unpopular overhaul of the costly social security system, his key measure to bring Brazil’s budget deficit under control.
The president was also due to meet the leaders of the two chambers of Congress to discuss whether pension reform has enough support to be put to the vote or should wait until February after the yearend recess.
The government’s leader in the Senate Romero Jucá stunned Temer’s administration on Wednesday by declaring that the ruling coalition had agreed the vote would have to be put off until next year to allow time to secure votes needed for its approval.
Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, who wants to see the legislation enacted as soon as possible to help balance government accounts, said there was no such agreement and urged lawmakers to vote on pension reform by next week, the last before Congress packs up for Christmas.
The bill would make Brazilians work for more years before retiring and cut back generous pensions for public sector employees. Lawmakers will be more reluctant to back the austerity measure in 2018, an election year.
Investors fear that a failure to streamline social security could weaken the currency and stock market, while boosting interest rates and possibly fuelling new credit rating downgrades for Brazil next year.
Temer warned on Wednesday that the economy would suffer if pension reform is not passed. But he had to interrupt a flurry of meetings to rally support for the bill and fly to Sao Paulo for surgery for a narrowing of his urethra.
His office said Wednesday’s surgery was successful and he needed 48 hours to recover, remaining in hospital until Friday.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle)