Brazil's Guedes asks Congress to speed up economic reforms as coronavirus worsens crisis

SAO PAULO, March 11 (Reuters) - Brazil’s Economy Minister Paulo Guedes urged both Senate and lower house leaders late on Tuesday to speed up the government’s economic reform agenda amid a worsening crisis triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.

“Considering the worsening of the international crisis due to the spread of the coronavirus and the need to shield the Brazilian economy, the Economy Ministry proposes to accelerate the agenda it has been conducting with Congress,” Guedes said.

This suggests Brazil’s right wing administration is doubling down on its fiscal discipline and commitment to meeting its budget targets. On Tuesday, special secretary to the Economy Ministry Waldery Rodrigues said the government must maintain its “fiscal zeal” despite the growing crisis.

In letters to Senate President Davi Alcolumbre and lower house speaker Rodrigo Maia, Guedes highlighted bills on central bank autonomy, the privatization of state-run utility Eletrobras , and the fiscal balance plan, among other proposals.

Guedes also cited the need to approve other reforms such as the new ‘federative pact’ framework governing the flow of funding between central and local governments, which is already being analyzed in Congress.

In the letters, he added that President Jair Bolsonaro is likely to submit an ‘administrative reform’ proposal to Congress “soon.” Regarding tax reform, Guedes said its team is still working on the final text.

“Approving these matters above in the first half of this year can protect Brazil from the external crisis,” Guedes said, adding his team was closely monitoring how the international and domestic economies were evolving. (Reporting by Marcela Ayres in Brasilia and Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro; Writing by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Bernadette Baum)