FRANCE – French president Jacques Chirac today promised that the government would come to a decision over pensions reform before summer 2003, adding that the state pay-as-you-go system will remain.

Having listened to the demands of union representatives, economists and associates, Chirac said: “The government will follow a line of dialogue with the social partners in order to come to the necessary decisions before the summer.”

He reaffirmed that the state pay-as-you-go pension system will remain, but added that a second means of retirement saving must be developed – which should not be regarded as merely an extra means. “We must make accessible to all French people that which is still only the privilege of a few”, said Chirac.

While maintaining that 60 will be the age of retirement, Chirac underlined the need to “give freedom and possibility to all those who wish to continue working”.

Former prime minister Edouard Balladur agreed that the “time of action” had arrived, and recommended beginning by looking at reforming the public sector retirement system, drawing attention to the disparities between it and that of the private sector – such as length of contributions.

Discussions will commence in February between the government and the social partners, opened by Francois Fillon, minister of social affairs, and public sector minister Jean-Paul Delevoye.