Brazil house speaker says spending ceiling cannot be put above welfare

·1 min read
FILE PHOTO: President of Brazil's Lower House Arthur Lira is seen in Brasilia

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian lower house Speaker Arthur Lira signaled late on Monday that he might be open to discuss the introduction of a welfare program that could break the country's spending ceiling.

Lira said in an interview with Veja magazine that Brazil cannot put fiscal responsibility and the spending ceiling above the social outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 600,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the South American country.

"The social aspect is very worrying. We can't just think about the spending ceiling, the fiscal responsibility," Lira said. "That is what the lower house and the Congress have been doing, putting it (the spending ceiling) above people that are below the poverty line."

Lira's remarks point to a change in his view regarding the spending cap. An ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, the lower house speaker has always spoken out against breaking the spending ceiling.

Reuters reported on Monday that Brazil's government is considering combining pandemic relief payments and "Bolsa Familia" welfare programs into a monthly stipend of 300 reais ($54.42) next year, according to a source familiar with the matter.

(Reporting by Eduardo Simões; Writing by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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