Brazil’s new Finance Minister, Eduardo Guardia, said Wednesday his top priorities will be fiscal austerity, privatization of Eletrobras and changes in oil contracts designed to attract more private investment. Guardia spoke at his first news conference as minister. He took over earlier this week from outgoing Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, who is expected to run for president in October. In the area of oil development, Guardia said he will seek changes in the way contracts are drawn up. Currently, contracts give certain priorities and benefits to state-run oil company Petrobras. Guardia said changes would be designed to increase the scope of private investment. “Brazilian oil reserves represent an opportunity to attract investme nt while, at the same time, bringing in money for the government,” he said. He also said he will press ahead with plans to sell controlling stakes in utilities holding company Eletrobras, currently controlled by the government. The government is hoping to pull in more than R$12 billion from the partial privatization but must await congressional approval. Guardia called the sale “absolutely necessary” from the viewpoint of public accounts. He said another top priority will be meeting tough fiscal austerity goals for 2018. Longer term, he said, “We cannot solve our fiscal problems without pension reform.” He predicted congressional approval for a pension reform bill next year.
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