ITALY – Welfare minister Roberto Maroni has vowed to beat the resistance from the banking sector in his bid to boost the second pillar pension system with the severance payout known as the Tfr.

“We are facing unjustified and unjustifiable resistance from banks, but I mean to beat this resistance,” Maroni said.

The minister was today due to present a draft for a decree to map out the future of pension savings and the second pillar. He said he wants to create a pension system similar to other European countries, citing in particular Great Britain.

Maroni has long been involved changing the Italian pension saving system. He is one of the architects of the reform passed a year ago.

The reform aims at developing the second pillar by encouraging workers to invest their severance pay, Tfr, in pension funds, rather than cashing it at the end of their career as a lump sum.

But the employers body, Confindustria, has expressed fears that small and medium-size enterprises would face hardship without the Tfr money.

At the end of May the association of Italian Banks, Abi, agreed to the setting-up a Public Guarantee Fund, to help employers to invest the Tfr in pension funds.

“We are astonished at the minister’s words, especially in view of our work with the government to find the most appropriate solution,” the Abi said in a statement.

Abi said it would continue its co-operation with the government in spite of Maroni’s remarks and stressed its support to the Public Guarantee Fund.

Maroni’s draft also reconfirms pension regulator Covip as sole supervisor for all pension investments.

Last Friday, the government was confronted by the head of the accounts court, Francesco Staderini, who suggested the pension reform could kick in before 2008, to give some relief to the public coffers and reassure the EU.

The court of accounts pointed out the “abnormal” pension expenses, which are about 4 percentage points higher than the European average. Maroni has dismissed the suggestion.