Government wants to stop extra charges on state-owned pension funds | Economy

Photo: Isac Nóbrega/PR

In an election year, government wants to stop extra charges from state-owned pension fund participants

To avoid political attrition to President Jair Bolsonaro less than a hundred days before the elections, the government must prevent state-owned pension funds from charging extra contributions from their beneficiaries and sponsoring companies this year.

This payment would be necessary, as the funds accumulated a deficit of R$ 36.2 billion last year, according to the Brazilian Association of Closed Pension Entities (Abrapp). In the first quarter of this year, there is a new hole of R$ 24.2 billion.

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According to the rules in force after the CPI on pension funds, in 2015, entities would have to activate a plan to equate the deficit with additional contributions from sponsoring companies and employees. That is, state-owned companies would have to put money together with thousands of employees. There are no estimates of the amounts that would be disbursed by each participant, as this varies from fund to fund.

200 thousand affected

Abrapp points out that at least R$ 20.5 billion of this hole should start to be paid this year, which would mainly affect employees of state-owned companies such as Correios (whose pension fund is Postalis), Caixa Econômica Federal (Funcef) and Petrobras (Peters). A universe of 200,000 active and retired employees – who are already paying additional contributions to cover past gaps – would be affected.

In order to prevent pension fund participants from making new disbursements in a year in which the family budget is already sacrificed by high inflation, the National Council for Complementary Pensions (CNPC) should suspend, in a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, On Monday (29), the mandatory activation of a plan to correct the deficit presented by the funds in 2021.

The CNPC regulates the supplementary pension scheme. The government has a majority in the collegiate body, which has participants from the sponsors, participants and the National Superintendence of Complementary Pensions (Previc). Executives linked to the funds cite, privately, the political ingredient of the decision in an election year.

The claim was taken over by Abrapp, which took the proposal to the CNPC. In the justification for the request, the entity claims that 2021 was an atypical year, especially from the second half of the year, when entities were hit hard by the significant and rapid increase in the basic interest rate, the Selic. The effect was greater in funds with investments concentrated in government bonds.

To fight inflation, the Central Bank (BC) raised the interest rate seven times in a row, from 2% in January to 9.25% in December in 2021 (currently it is at 13.25%), argued Abrapp. The president of the entity, Luis Ricardo Martins, also cites the effects of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, on the Brazilian economy.

“This very acute situation is consistent with an exceptionality. Abrapp’s proposal suggests that the isolated result of 2021 should not be considered for the purposes of solving a possible deficit, but the sum of 2021 and 2022, to be determined in 2023”, he said. Martins.

Members of the CNPC claim that the collegiate must comply with the request, but admit that the turmoil in the financial market should continue in view of the electoral calendar – which means that the decision may push the bill to next year, after the October elections.

For economist Fabio Giambiagi, an associate researcher at Ibre/FGV, however, the decision appears to be a mistake, analogous to what several governments committed by postponing the much-needed pension reform.

“It’s too bad to have regulation that tends to be interpretively rigid when it comes to reducing contributions, but flexible when they should go up. The result of this tends to be negative for the balance of the system.”

Workers already pay the bills for the hole in the past. In the case of Postalis, for example, which was one of the main targets of the CPI of pension funds, the contribution of workers reaches 27% of the value of the benefit, according to the Association of Postal Professionals (Adcap). The average salary is BRL 3,000, according to the entity, which would make a contribution of BRL 810. Postalis recorded a deficit of BRL 7.7 billion in 2021.



Lawsuit

Funcef participants also already pay an extra contribution that reaches 19.16%. At Petros, the extra varies between 10.56% and 12.05% (inactive only). The plans were put in place to correct gaps resulting from past mismanagement, improper investments and diversion of resources, according to industry experts.

Last week, the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) filed a lawsuit in court for Caixa to invest BRL 5 billion in its employees’ fund. The amount was calculated based on suspicions of crimes committed by deviations in the application of Funcef resources investigated in Operation Greenfield. In the action, the MPF argues that the amounts charged to Caixa should be destined “exclusively to deduct the extraordinary contributions that are being charged from the participants”. The bank said it does not comment on ongoing lawsuits.

Even in the face of the current situation of the funds, the specialist Antonio Fernando Gazzoni, representative of the CNPC sponsors, said that there are technical arguments for the collegiate to suspend the mandatory equations of the 2021 deficit:

“Still in 2021, we started to receive requests from closed entities to review the equation rule, even if on an exceptional basis. As a precaution, we await the beginning of 2022, but what we saw was an aggravation in the issue of market volatility.”

‘Conjunctural factor’

Sought, Petros informed, in a note, that it accompanies “the proposal that is being processed at the CNPC so that the result of the entities in 2021 is not considered in isolation for the purpose of equation, especially because it has strictly conjunctural causes”. The entity said that it seeks to “immunize” the portfolio in search of better results. “Since last year, Petros has been increasing the acquisition of federal public bonds marked on the curve, with rates above the actuarial target, in search of the profitability necessary to fulfill obligations with the participants”, says the note.

Postalis said that “it sees as legitimate the claim taken by the segment to the CNPC so that participants of pension funds are not penalized with yet another collection of extraordinary rates”.

Previ, on the other hand, reported that the decision of the collegiate will not impact its participants because the deficit is negligible, given the fund’s assets, which exceed R$ 200 billion. Funcef reported, in turn, that 50,000 participants already pay additional contributions and that the results obtained by the Fund have been sufficient to reduce the rates for workers. (Collaborated by Glauce Cavalcanti).

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