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.
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.
ReutersLast Mod: 24 Mayıs 2010, 20:34