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Colombia continued to suffer the effects of a slow economy and its GDP was lower than projected in 2016, due to continuing low oil and commodity prices and depressed demand from China for raw materials. It is however expected that Colombia‚Äôs economy will pick up in 2017 and 2018 thanks to stronger external demand and a pick-up in agricultural production as the impact of the cyclical El Ni√Īo effect lessen once more.

The construction, infrastructure and financial services sectors remain key economic drivers, especially since consumer spending still shows signs of weakness, a circumstance exacerbated by high inflation and an unfavourable dollar exchange rate. A drop in export-generated revenue was another negative. In this scenario, it remains to be seen how the corruption scandal involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht will affect the country, although President Santos’ immediate addressing and acknowledgement of the issue undoubtedly had a positive effect in limiting the fallout from a scandal that has shocked many by its scale.

Public expenditure is expected to play a vital role in boosting demand, in a pre-election year. The Central Bank has taken action in an effort to control higher-than-expected inflation, raising interest rates in early 2016, but cuts have resumed even though inflation remains above the target range, and it is expected that this policy will continue. Structural reforms in health, education and infrastructure sectors, and the reduction of levels of informal employment constitute long-term challenges if the country wishes improve its competitiveness. Fiscal consolidation is also a necessary step and the government has introduced comprehensive tax reforms in an effort to increase revenue, stimulate growth and address social challenges.

In terms of the legal market, the dominance of the traditional ‚Äėtop four‚Äô ‚Äď Brigard & Urrutia, G√≥mez-Pinz√≥n Zuleta, Posse Herrera Ruiz and Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Ur√≠a (formerly PrietoCarrizosa) ‚Äď is perhaps, no longer to be taken for granted, with Baker McKenzie S.A.S. in particular, claiming a place at the top table. The arrival (and/or consolidation) of other international firms, including Dentons Cardenas & Cardenas, DLA Piper Martinez Beltran, Garrigues, Norton Rose Fulbright and most recently, CMS Rodr√≠guez Azuero Contexto Legal Abogados, has hiked competition for qualified and experienced talent, and is increasingly altering the dynamics of the local market. Nevertheless, there remains a significant number of high quality local firms with particular strength in a range of market sectors, including Lloreda Camacho & Co., Sanclemente Fern√°ndez Abogados S.A., Dur√°n & Osorio Abogados Asociados, Palacios Lleras and Mu√Īoz Tamayo & Asociados; and specialist boutiques Zuleta Abogados Asociados S.A.S, Suesc√ļn Abogados, Archila Abogados, Godoy & Hoyos Abogados SAS and Ibarra Abogados, among others.

Firms in the spotlight

DLA Piper Martinez Beltran

In 2015 Martinez Neira Abogados (MNA) signed a cooperation agreement with DLA Piper LLC (US), and became DLA Piper Martinez Beltran. This association meant a complete internationalization of the services offered by Martinez Neira, achieving an important goal in its growing strategy. Founded in 1996, DLA Piper Martinez Beltran is a prominent and leading law firm in Colombia. The firm specializes in banking, corporate M&A, capital markets, administrative/regulatory law and dispute resolution.

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      The importance and feasibility of crowdfunding platforms is increasing in stature and importance for current and future the entrepreneurs. Malta has recently acceded to the rising trend by creating its first crowdfunding platform, ZAAR, a reward-based crowdfunding platform who has recently been awarded with the first prize in its section at the National Enterprise Support Awards 2016 also as well as being one of the local projects that have represented Malta at the European Enterprise Promotion Awards 2016, held in Slovakia. Nonetheless start-ups based in Malta with global aspirations often rely on international platforms. An increase in interest has emerged amongst the art and culture community as well in social entrepreneurship projects. Crowdfunding in Malta is still at the early stages of development. Despite this, there are endless opportunities for local entrepreneurs and the local business community. Research has shown that through international crowdfunding platforms, monies have been raised for projects in the field of gaming consoles, apps and software as well as for artistic projects.  Testimony to this is a new game design studio in Malta, that launched its first game, Politicks, raised financing through the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

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