Eduardo Cavallo, Tomás Serebrisky, 29 July 2016

The Latin American and Caribbean region is trapped in a vicious cycle of low savings and poor use of these savings. This column describes how this problem is reinforced by the current financial system, and prescribes three remedies to policymakers and households to break the cycle. The government should create a better environment for saving and develop a better financial system, but it should also tackle investment distortions and fix broken pension systems. Meanwhile, a change in saving culture should be encouraged from the ground up, with financial education offered to citizens early on in their lives.

Silda Nikaj, Joshua J. Miller, John Tauras, 28 July 2016

Progress in adopting smoking bans across the US has been slow, despite a majority of Americans supporting a ban in public places. This column uses aggregate and establishment-level data from Texas to examine the economic effects of smoking bans on bars and restaurants. The results suggest that bars and restaurants are not adversely affected by the adoption of a ban. 

Gaston Gelos, Nico Valckx, 27 July 2016

In recent years, the life insurance sector has become more systemically important across advanced economies. This increase is largely due to growing common exposures and to insurers’ rising interest rate sensitivity. This column analyses the evolution of the insurance sector’s contribution to systemic risk. Overall, life insurers do not seem to have markedly changed their asset portfolios toward riskier assets, although smaller and weaker insurers in some countries have taken on more risk. The findings suggest that supervisors and regulators should take a more macroprudential approach to the sector.

Richard Baldwin, 26 July 2016

Today, VoxEU.org introduces a new feature – “VoxAccounts” – which is the first step towards building a more interactive community of economists interested in research-based policy analysis and commentary. The aim is to allow Vox community members to customise their interactions with the site. You join by creating a VoxAccount. Creating a VoxAccount is free, and indeed all content on VoxEU.org will remain free of charge, but we will gradually introduce features that require readers to be logged in to their VoxAccounts.

Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz, 26 July 2016

Trade ministries, just as other parts of government, need to respond to calls from the public and from global leaders for action on major issues. This column argues that armed with potential policy options identified through the E15Initiative, the WTO is equipped to contribute to solutions in many areas. Purposeful efforts over the coming months and years could help to boost the WTO’s essential and valuable place in ensuring a responsive and inclusive furtherance of globalisation and trade and investment integration that delivers sustainable development outcomes for all.    

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