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Editorial

Paraguay’s small-but-open economy continues to grow apace, with average GDP rates of 5% over the past decade permitting a reduction of the number of impoverished Paraguayans by 50% between 2003 and 2016. The country’s strong track record of economic stability is based on the thriving agricultural sector and -more recently- on political priorities of targeting inflation and fiscal discipline, although the latter holds potential for conflict as seen when the President vetoed the 2017 budget to avoid any risk of default after the senate placed a limit on the amount of debt the government could issue. These measures have made the economy relatively resilient to external developments –such as falling soy prices and weak growth in major trading partners Argentina and Brazil.

Future challenges include fostering infrastructure development, greater investment in the health and education sectors, the reduction of poverty levels – and in particular violence against women (in March 2018 Paraguay passed a new national law to protect women from all forms of violence (Act 5777)) – as well as the further strengthening of the country’s institutions, particularly the judiciary. With that said, the country is regarded as firmly on the path to accelerating development and has been attracting a steady flow of foreign direct investment and realizing large infrastructure projects through public-private partnerships. It remains to be seen if the newly elected conservative government of President Mario Abdo Benítez will be able to continue the positive development and further increase the country’s influence in the region.

The Paraguayan legal market has to some extent been experiencing its own developmental spurt during these recent years of the economy’s growth with many undergoing a process of generational hand-over. In so far as this has also been a process of modernisation, one original impulse was the arrival over a decade of the then Uruguayan -today multi-jurisdictional firm Ferrere, which along with the well-established and innovative Estudio Jurídico Gross Brown (the first of the local firm’s to complete the handover and modernisation process); unsurprisingly, it is these firm’s that tend to predominate in the banking and finance as well as corporate and M&A areas, although not without strong competition, particularly from the likes of Berkemeyer Attorneys & Counselors and Vouga Abogados, which both continue to gain momentum. Other notable full-service firms are Moreno Ruffinelli & Asociados (from whose ranks came the country’s last Attorney General, Rodolfo Moreno, who has sought to move judicial reform and professionalization up the political agenda); Olmedo Abogados, Mersan Abogados and Peroni Sosa Tellechea Burt & Narvaja. There are also numerous excellent boutiques: Parquet & Asociados is developing out of its niche focus but remains highly regarded for administrative law matters; SEA Abogados y Consultores Ambientales and Ebro - Firma Jurídica are noted for their environmental expertise; while Irún & Villamayor excels in labour matters. Zacarias & Fernández and Estudio Nora Ruoti & Asociados are recommended for IP and tax law respectively.

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