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fiscal 'black hole'@ (Adds detail, quotes)
BRASILIA, June 4 (Reuters) - Brazil's Economy Minister on Tuesday said the government will press ahead on a number of fronts, including pension and tax overhauls and widespread privatizations, to fill the fiscal "black hole" that is threatening to swallow the country.
Addressing the lower house Finance and Taxation Committee, Paulo Guedes said the government's 1.237 trillion reais ($321 billion) pension proposal was just the first step on the road to bringing Brazil's crippled public finances back to health.
"We focus a lot on pension reform as if was the only thing, but it is only the beginning," Guedes told lawmakers in testimony that sometimes threatened to descend into the shouting and name-calling that marked one of his previous congressional hearings in March.
"All of our proposals are being worked out, they are ready. We will propose reducing and simplifying taxes ... we will accelerate the privatization process," Guedes said.
Congress could debate tax reform as soon as the pension overhaul is approved, Guedes said. But the legislative process is proving to be slower than the government had hoped for, and, against a backdrop of political paralysis, the economy is contracting.
Guedes said on Tuesday he would free up resources from a workers' social contribution fund known as 'PIS/Pasep' and enact the so-called 'Mansueto plan' to provide a short-term stimulus boost to the economy, but only once pension reform was passed.
Named after Treasury Secretary Mansueto Almeida, the Mansueto plan calls for the government to provide loans to Brazilian states who in turn lay out a roadmap to bring their finances back under control over the coming years.
Guedes warned lawmakers that if pension reform were not being debated, Brazil would be engulfed in a "huge crisis" and the currency, the real, would be substantially weaker.
Uncertainty over the pension bill and trade tensions abroad pushed the real to a new low for the year of 4.12 per dollar last month. It has since recovered to around 3.85 per dollar.
Guedes defended the bill's targeted savings of more than 1 trillion reais over the next decade, arguing that this would be made up from reducing "privileges and inequalities" in the pension system, and that it was not being taken from future generations.
With global trade war fears rising, Guedes struck an optimistic note, saying Brazil could sign trade deals with Argentina and the European Union within three to four weeks. ($1 = 3.8583 reais) (Reporting by Marcela Ayres Writing by Jamie McGeever Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)