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BANKS in Italy fared better during the financial crisis than many of their peers, sparing Italian taxpayers the bail-outs their counterparts in other countries had to shoulder. But although they stuck to their cautious business models and avoided fuelling a big housing boom and bust, Italy’s protracted recession has enfeebled them. It has caused bad loans to soar, which in turn has prevented them from

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Stopping slurping

It comes at a cost

AROUND the world, governments and beverage makers are locked in battle over taxes on sugary drinks. Hungary has been taxing them since 2011. In 2012 the French government introduced a tax on all drinks with added sugar or artificial sweetener, now €0.075 ($0.08) a litre. The Mexican government followed suit last year, with a tax of 1 peso ($0.06) a litre on all sugary drinks. Chile and the city

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For richer for poorer

IN DECEMBER, as a winter chill descends on the continental United States, temperatures in Puerto Rico often reach 30°C. Palm trees sway alongside the Spanish colonial buildings in Old San Juan; the blue Atlantic stretches to the horizon. Yet the economic outlook for America’s Caribbean dependency is anything but sunny. Its government owes $72 billion in debt, which it says it cannot repay. On December 1st

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Not so smart

IN 2008, as the financial system was collapsing, Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve and champion of free markets, admitted he had been wrong. “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organisations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” he said. In other words: why

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The perils of planning on the basis of economic forecasts


THE joke is not new but it is a good one. How do we know that economists have a sense of humour? They put decimal points in their forecasts. Yesterday, Britain's Office for Budget Responsibility published its analysis of the government's spending package. The big news was that the OBR revised up its assumption on the tax revenues the government could raise, giving chancellor George Osborne

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