With Senate Approval, Brazil Declares ‘Public Calamity’
20 marzo 2020

On March 20, the Senate held an historic session in which it passed a legislative decree declaring a state of public calamity in the country as a matter of urgency. The regulation, sent by Bolsonaro, authorizes the Executive to spend in excess of its fiscal targets in order to finance measures against the pandemic. The Senate’s approval brought the measure into effect until December 31, 2020.

For the first time in the institution’s 196 years, the Senate voted on the initiative remotely and unanimously, authorizing the Executive to suspend debt limits in order to meet its fiscal targets. Just a few days earlier, Bolsonaro had urged Congress to approve the bill given “the need to increase public spending to protect the health and employment of Brazilians.”

The decree also creates a joint committee of six deputies and six senators whose objective will be to control the government’s spending during the period of public calamity, which should last until the last day of the year. According to the government, “it would be reckless in this context to comply with fiscal restrictions” since “it would imply the risk of paralyzing the public apparatus at the time when it is most needed.”  

In Brazil, legislative decree bills are initiatives regulating matters which are the exclusive competence of the Congress, and once these are approved by the Legislature, they cannot be vetoed by the President.