Brazil’s National Congress has enacted an amendment to the Constitution outlining the conditions for a “state of emergency” in the country, thus allowing the government to extend the payment of social benefits until the end of the year.

The constitutional amendment bill was deliberated on swiftly and not without some controversy before being approved Wednesday and enacted Thursday (Jul 13), the last week before legislative recess. 

The text stipulates a BRL 200 increase in welfare aid Auxílio Brasil, paid every month to low-income people, bringing it up to BRL 600 until December this year. The bill also introduces a BRL 1 thousand aid for autonomous truck drivers, BRL 200 for taxi drivers, a rise in the voucher for cooking gas, and a boost in food program Alimenta Brasil. Also included is the financing of free public transportation for the elderly and compensation for states that reduce the tax burden on biofuels.

Justification

The state of emergency had to be declared because, under the law, the government must not create new welfare benefits or hand out cash in an election year—except in a state of emergency.

The government argues the move “stems from the extraordinary and unpredictable rise in oil prices, fuels, and their by-products, as well as the resulting social impact.”

According to lower house speaker Senator Rodrigo Pacheco, the bill comes as a result of the efforts made by Congress to help the needy. “The amendment we are enacting here aims to mitigate the harmful economic and social effects on Brazilians arising from the inflationary process seen in recent months in nearly all nations around the globe.”

Senator Pacheco attributed the economic crisis to the war between Russia and Ukraine as well as to the “slow recovery in the world’s distribution and logistics chains, severely undermined as they were by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The number of Brazilians facing poverty or extreme poverty has reached 47.3 million—22.3 percent of the population, the highest in ten years, he went on to mention.

Deliberations

Although a large number of opposition lawmakers labeled the move electioneering politics, as the rise in welfare benefits will not last much longer, the bill was met with massive approval by the opposition in both houses. It would be inconsistent to vote against any increase in benefits for the poor, Congress members argued.

Source: Agência Brasil