THE Government stood firm yesterday on its reluctance to introduce a central provident fund. Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower Lam Woon-kwong was challenged at a forum to say whether the Government would defy the will of the majority and turn down calls to establish the fund. ''We are not simply considering whether the public want it. We have to also consider whether the proposal can achieve what the public really want. This is the most important thing,'' he said. Governor Chris Patten said the Government would announce details on the issue by the end of the year. Mr Lam did not consider a compulsory retirement scheme administered by the Government attractive. ''The fund is not something magical. We have to take money from the people's purses to force them to save money before they can get the money back after the age of 65,'' he said. ''Looking at countries around the world, we find no evidence which shows a government-administered scheme has a better rate of return than the private-administered type,'' he said. The Government has suggested a compulsory retirement scheme managed by private companies. Liberal Party legislator James Tien Pei-chun disagreed with Mr Lam. He said what the elderly wanted from the fund was a solid guarantee, not necessarily a high rate of return.