Brazil deputy speaker says tax reform unlikely to pass

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Brazilian Federal Deputy Marcelo Ramos attends a session of the commission of the pension reform bill at the National Congress in Brasilia
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By Anthony Boadle and Maria Carolina Marcello

BRASILIA (Reuters) -The deputy speaker of Brazil's lower house of Congress, Marcelo Ramos, said an income tax reform that introduces a 20% tax on company dividends is unlikely to pass because most Brazilians oppose it, even businesses.

He lamented in an interview on Wednesday that Brazil has abandoned its fiscal austerity policies due to President Jair Bolsonaro's focus on increasing spending to win re-election next year.

"Everyone is against the bill. The airlines, agribusiness, industry, the financial market, civil construction. There is no way it can pass the chamber," he said. Ramos said it would have to be rewritten to build consensus.

The house on Tuesday put off voting on the bill again, but Speaker Arthur Lira said it would not be shelved because it is what the country needs.

A member of the center-right Liberal Party - with framed photos of Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill in his office - Ramos has become a vocal critic of far-right President Bolsonaro for how he has handled Brazil's COVID-19 outbreak, the world's second-deadliest, while lurching between political crises.

Bolsonaro has threatened not to respect the outcome of next year's election and attacked members of the Supreme Court for blocking his electoral reform plans.

"We have a crisis caused and fed by the president himself," Ramos said.

He said Brazil's armed forces have been partially "contaminated by Bolsonaro's coup-mongering" but expressed confidence that the military will eventually stand by the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro's "absolute priority" has become income distribution through social welfare "not to help Brazilians, but for purely electoral reasons," Ramos said. "He has realized that is his last chance to get re-elected."

"Austerity polices achieved with much sacrifice by the Brazilian people have been abandoned," he said.

The presidential press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Maria Carolina Marcello; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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