Brazil candidate mixes green, pro-market proposals

* Silva favors tax and pension reform

* Criticizes Lula govt for destruction in Amazon

* Wants autonomy of regulatory watchdogs

By Raymond Colitt

BRASILIA, May 24 (BestGrowthStock) – Brazil’s Green Party
presidential candidate Marina Silva proposed on Monday to cut
taxes and social security benefits, giving a market-friendly
slant to her platform of clean government and environment.

Silva trails in third place in opinion polls but as a
world-renowned champion of the Amazon she is expected to help
shape the campaign agenda before Oct. 3 general elections.

A strong showing by Silva could also mean that her party
would form part of a likely coalition government.

“Brazil can’t handle the burden of taxes and inefficiency
anymore,” Silva said in an interview with CBN radio, endorsing
demands of business leaders who say the country’s investment
climate is eroding their international competitiveness.

Silva, who stepped down as President Luiz Inacio Lula da
Silva’s environment minister in May 2008, also urged a reform
of the country’s costly pension system, echoing pledges by
ruling party candidate Dilma Rousseff and the leading
opposition contender Jose Serra.

Serra and Rouseff were tied with 37 percent of voter
intention in a Datafolha opinion poll at the weekend, against
Silva’s 12 percent.

“Obviously we’ll have to reform the social security system.
The deficit … is very serious,” Silva said.

Investors are closely watching the growing deficit of
Brazil’s social security system, which accounts for one of the
government’s largest expenditures.

With an aging population the deficit could expand more
rapidly in coming years if no cuts are made, economists warn.

In a further attempt to build a market-friendly image, and
win centrist voters from former chief of staff Rousseff and
former Sao Paulo state Governor Serra, Silva said she favored
autonomous regulatory agencies and criticized a government-led
plan to improve broadband access.

Rousseff and Serra favor a pro-active government and a
larger role for state companies in the economy. The current
government has stripped regulatory agencies of some of their
powers and is accused of exerting political pressure on them.

Silva’s vice-presidential running mate is the wealthy
businessman Guilherme Leal, owner of the big cosmetics company
Natura (NATU3.SA: ).

GREEN AGENDA

Silva, who abandoned Lula’s leftist Workers’ Party in 2008
to join the Green Party, also criticized the current government
for financing ecological destruction in the Amazon rain forest,
where Silva began her political career beside legendary
conservationist Chico Mendes.

The government’s development bank, BNDES, supported
unsustainable cattle-ranching and massive hydroelectric dams in
the Amazon rainforest, she said.

“The BNDES gave 8 billion reais ($4.32 billion) in loans to
slaughterhouses in the Amazon without environmental criteria,”
said Silva, who only learned to read and write when she was 16
years old and worked as a maid to pay the bills.

“Today we’re losing one thousand times more biodiversity
than we did 50 years ago. Soon we’ll undermine the natural
resource base for our development,” Silva told CBN.

When she launched her candidacy just over a week ago, she
proposed to combat corruption, build bicycle paths and water
treatment plants, and employ greener farming technologies.

The Green Party, long a fringe party in Brazil with little
clout, made headlines in 2008 when its candidate, Deputy
Fernando Gabeira, nearly won the mayorship of Rio de Janeiro.

It has 14 out of 513 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the
lower house of Congress.

Stock Market Money

(Editing by David Storey)

Brazil candidate mixes green, pro-market proposals