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judge set to challenge pension cuts
Raymond Colitt ,
June 23, 2003
Paulo - The head of Brazil's Supreme Court was expected on Monday to
challenge the government's controversial social security reform and to
present an alternative proposal exempting the judiciary from many of the
proposed pension cuts.
It is the most
serious threat yet to the government's all-important pension reform, which
aims to reduce an annual social security deficit of 5 per cent of gross
domestic product. Pension reform has been introduced into Congress as a
The reform is being
watched closely by investors as an indication of Brazil's ability to
balance its large budget deficit in coming years.
Following a protest
meeting last week of the country's leading judges, Maurcio José Corrêa,
the Supreme Court's chief justice, is demanding the right for the
judiciary to present its own reform plans. The magistrates reject the
government proposal to have their pensions taxed and capped at R$2,400
(US$832, £499) per month along with those of other civil servants.
is a state career," said Nilson Naves, head of the country's second
highest court, arguing that judges deserved different treatment to
enjoy some of the most generous benefits of any employee in Brazil, with
an average pension of R$8,000 per month. By comparison, government
pensions for the private sector average R$380. Concessions to the
judiciary, political analysts say, could open a Pandora's box of demands
from other civil servants, who are planning protest marches and strikes in
Workers' party (PT) signalled on Monday it would stand firm.
"A separate reform for the judiciary is unacceptable," José
Genoino, PT president, told Globo TV. Any privileged treatment for the
judiciary, he said, "could undermine the coherence of the pension
Yet the judiciary's
petition carries particular weight, as any constitutional pension reform
passed by Congress is likely to be challenged in the supreme court.
In 1999 the supreme
court ruled that a similar pension reform - albeit in the form of simple
legislation rather than a constitutional amendment - was illegal.
expects the reform bill to be approved by a committee of Congress's lower
house in mid-July and to gain final approval in the Senate before the end
informal vote-counts in the committee suggest the result hangs in the
balance. The bulk of opposition to key parts of the package comes from
politicians in the rightwing Liberal Front party, as well as legislators
from fringe centrist and extreme leftwing parties.