Colombia lawmakers approve pension reform in victory for Petro

FILE PHOTO: Ceremony to appoint Major General Luis Emilio Cardozo as the new commander of the Colombian national army, in Bogota

By Carlos Vargas

BOGOTA (Reuters) -Colombia's lower house on Friday approved a pension reform proposed by President Gustavo Petro, marking a victory for the leftist, who has struggled to get lawmaker approval for several of his cornerstone promises.

The government says the reform will strengthen state pension fund Colpensiones, reduce subsidies and increase coverage for those without sufficient savings.

The market has been wary of Petro's reform efforts, and analysts and business guilds had warned of potential impact of the pension reform on capital markets and public finances.

The bill was approved with 86 votes in favor and 32 against.

The Senate previously approved the bill.

Petro is also pushing a health sector reform and changes to labor laws, which were initially rejected by lawmakers last year.

Under the pension reform, workers earning up to 2.3 times the minimum wage - about $743 per month - will have to pay their contributions into Colpensiones. People earning more than that will be able to pay contributions on amounts exceeding the 2.3-times minimum wage to a private fund.

The reform, which will be in force from July 2025, kept the retirement age at 62 for men when they have made contributions for 1,300 weeks of work and 57 for women, though it reduced the number of weeks for women to 1,000.

Women can discount 50 weeks of pension contributions from their required amount for each child, for up to three children, under the terms of the reform.

Pensioners who have not reached the minimum number of working weeks to be given a pension will receive a minimum monthly payment of 223,000 pesos, about $57.

People who are nearing retirement - men with at least 900 weeks worked and women with at least 750 weeks worked - will be exempt from the Colpensiones requirement.

(Reporting by Carlos VargasWriting by Julia Symmes CobbEditing by Leslie Adler)