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Can pro-growth policies lift all boats? An analysis based on household disposable income

December 19, 2014 Comments off

Can pro-growth policies lift all boats? An analysis based on household disposable income (PDF)
Source: OECD

In a majority of OECD countries, GDP growth over the past three decades has been associated with growing income disparities. To shed some lights on the potential sources of trade-offs between growth and equity, this paper investigates the long-run impact of structural reforms on GDP per capita and household income distribution. Pro-growth reforms can be distinguished according to whether they are found to generate an increase or a reduction in household disposable income inequality. Those that contribute to reduce inequality include the reduction in regulatory barriers to competition, trade and FDI, as well as the stepping-up in job search assistance and training programmes. Conversely, a tightening of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed is found to lift mean household income but to lower income among poorer households, thus raising inequality. Several other reforms have no significant impact on income distribution.

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From Spaghetti Bowl to Jigsaw Puzzle? Addressing the Disarray in the World Trade System

December 16, 2014 Comments off

From Spaghetti Bowl to Jigsaw Puzzle? Addressing the Disarray in the World Trade System
Source: Asian Development Bank

The rise of mega-regionals suggests that the world trade system is fragmenting to the point it appears more like a jigsaw puzzle than a spaghetti bowl. There are both regional and global jigsaw puzzles to be solved—in that order—to rectify the situation but this appears impractical.

Therefore, a way forward is to return to the most widely used modality of trade liberalization—unilateral actions—but this time involving the multilateralization of preferences.

Identifying Speculative Bubbles: A Two-Pillar Surveillance Framework

December 10, 2014 Comments off

Identifying Speculative Bubbles: A Two-Pillar Surveillance Framework
Source: International Monetary Fund

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the issue of how best to identify speculative asset bubbles (in real-time) remains in flux. This owes to the difficulty of disentangling irrational investor exuberance from the rational response to lower risk based on price behavior alone. In response, I introduce a two-pillar (price and quantity) approach for financial market surveillance. The intuition is straightforward: while asset pricing models comprise a valuable component of the surveillance toolkit, risk taking behavior, and financial vulnerabilities more generally, can also be reflected in subtler, non-price terms. The framework appears to capture stylized facts of asset booms and busts—some of the largest in history have been associated with below average risk premia (captured by the ‘pricing pillar’) and unusually elevated patterns of issuance, trading volumes, fund flows, and survey-based return projections (reflected in the ‘quantities pillar’). Based on a comparison to past boom-bust episodes, the approach is signaling mounting vulnerabilities in risky U.S. credit markets. Policy makers and regulators should be attune to any further deterioration in issuance quality, and where possible, take steps to ensure the post-crisis financial infrastructure is braced to accommodate a re-pricing in credit risk.

Measuring the Information Society Report 2014

December 8, 2014 Comments off

Measuring the Information Society Report 2014
Source: International Telecommunication Union

The Measuring the Information Society Report, which has been published annually since 2009, features key ICT data and benchmarking tools to measure the information society, including the ICT Development Index (IDI). The IDI captures the level of ICT developments in 166 economies worldwide and compares progress made during the last year. The Measuring the Information Society Report 2014 highlights the relationship between ICT development (as measured by the IDI) and the MDGs, a contribution to the ongoing discussions on the potential of ICTs as development enablers. The report includes the results of the ICT Price Basket (IPB) and new mobile-broadband price data for over 140 economies. Price data are analysed to provide insights into the relationship between affordability and income inequality, competition and regulation. The report also looks at new ICT data sources for measurement and examines the possible role of ICT big data for monitoring and development.

Committee against Torture — Concluding observations on the third to fifth periodic reports of United States of America

December 3, 2014 Comments off

Committee against Torture — Concluding observations on the third to fifth periodic reports of United States of America (PDF)
Source: United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

“The Committee welcomes the State party’s unequivocal commitment to abide by the universal prohibition of torture and ill-treatment everywhere, including Bagram and Guantanamo Bay detention facilities, as well as the assurances that U.S. personnel are legally prohibited under international and domestic law from engaging in torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment at all times, and in all places. The Committee notes that the State party has reviewed its position concerning the extraterritorial application of the Convention, and stated that it applies to ‘certain areas beyond’ its sovereign territory, and more specifically to ‘all places that the State party controls as a governmental authority,’ noting that it currently exercises such control at ‘the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and over all proceedings conducted there, and with respect to U.S.-registered ships and aircraft.’ The Committee also values the statement made by the State party’s delegation that the reservation to article 16 of the Convention, whose intended purpose is to ensure that existing U.S. constitutional standards satisfy the State party’s obligations under article 16, ‘does not introduce any limitation to the geographic applicability of article 16,’ and that ‘the obligations in article 16 apply beyond the sovereign territory of the United States to any territory under its jurisdiction’ under the terms mentioned above.’

However, the Committee is dismayed that the State party’s reservation to article 16 of the Convention features in various declassified memoranda containing legal interpretations on the extraterritorial applicability of U.S. obligations under the Convention issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) between 2001 and 2009, as part of deeply flawed legal arguments used to advise that interrogation techniques, which amounted to torture, could be authorized and used lawfully. While noting that these memoranda were revoked by Presidential Executive Order 13491 to the extent of their inconsistency with that order, the Committee remains concerned that the State party has not withdrawn yet its reservation to article 16 which could permit interpretations incompatible with the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment.

FATF guidance tackles terrorist finance and money laundering risk in banks and corporate entities

December 3, 2014 Comments off

FATF guidance tackles terrorist finance and money laundering risk in banks and corporate entities
Source: OECD

New guidance from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will help countries tackle the misuse of corporate entities for money laundering, terrorist financing and other illicit purposes.

Criminals are often able to set up companies or trusts with opaque ownership in order to hide their identity, the purpose of the account and their sources of funds.

The FATF’s Guidance on Transparency and Beneficial Ownership explains the requirements for the provision of accurate information about the legal and beneficial owners, the source of the corporate vehicle’s assets and its activities. Effective implementation of the measures will also help tackle corruption and tax evasion.

The FATF’s new guidance assists countries in:

  • Assessing the risks associated with legal persons and legal arrangements
  • Making legal persons and legal arrangements sufficiently transparent, and
  • Ensuring that accurate and up-to-date basic and beneficial ownership information is available to competent authorities in a timely fashion.

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems

December 2, 2014 Comments off

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (PDF)
Source: WHO

The use of ENDS is apparently booming. It is estimated that in 2014 there were 466 brands and that in 2013 US$ 3 billion was spent on ENDS globally. Sales are forecasted to increase by a factor of 17 by 2030. Despite this projection, transnational tobacco companies are divided about the prospects of the growth of ENDS sales and some companies have reported a slowdown in sales in some markets. There are no data on ENDS use at the global level and for many countries. However, data mainly from North America, the European Union (EU) and Republic of Korea indicate that ENDS use at least doubled among both adults and adolescents from 2008 to 2012. In 2012, 7% of EU citizens aged 15 years and over had tried electronic cigarettes. However, only 1% of the total population used them regularly.1 In 2013, 47% of smokers and ex-smokers in the United States of America had tried e-cigarettes, but prevalence of established use was 4% in this group. Users report that the main reasons for using ENDS are to reduce or stop smoking and because they can be used in smoke-free places.

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