June 4, 2019 / 5:35 PM / 22 days ago

Bolsonaro eyes bill for drivers, sparking criticism as Brazil debates pensions

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a credentials presentation ceremony for several new top diplomats at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro introduced a bill seeking to loosen restrictions for drivers on Tuesday, sparking criticism from the head of the congressional committee in charge of analysing a major pension system overhaul.

Marcelo Ramos, a lower house lawmaker and the special committee’s chairman, said on Twitter that Bolsonaro had “no sense of priorities.”

“While we are holding a conference about pension reform he is coming to the chamber to present a bill that will increase the number of red points bad drivers are allowed,” he wrote.

Bolsonaro presented the bill on Tuesday and said it was “very important” because it “touches everyone in Brazil.” Under the proposal, drivers would be allowed twice the current number of ‘red points’ given for infractions before their license was suspended.

A former army captain who took office in January, Bolsonaro campaigned for the presidency on a platform that advocated a swift and drastic pension reform, which many economists say is crucial to shoring up the country’s crippling fiscal deficit and getting the economy back on track.

But the legislative process has been slow, and marked by political infighting amid the government’s struggle to build congressional support for the ambitious bill.

Bolsonaro has often advocated for looser restrictions on drivers. In March, he promised to end electronic speed monitoring on Brazil’s roads, an idea that his infrastructure minister then toned down, saying some monitoring was necessary.

A recent survey showed that Bolsonaro’s approval ratings are falling sharply, and the number of Brazilians blaming Bolsonaro’s government for the sluggish economy - it contracted in the first quarter for the first time since 2016 - is rising.

Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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