major macro economic indicators
|GDP growth (%)||1.4||2.0||2.1||2.1|
|Inflation (yearly average) (%)||0.3||0.2||0.1||1.4|
|Budget balance (% GDP)||-2.3||-1.9||-0.1||0.2|
|Current account balance (% GDP)||8.5||8.5||8.0||7.5|
|Public debt (% GDP)||67.9||65.1||62.0||60.0|
- Port activity (Rotterdam, leading European port)
- Good competitiveness indicators
- Diversified exports and external accounts in surplus
- High quality infrastructure
- High levels of household savings: net financial assets = 200% of GDP
- Economy reliant on European economic cycle
- Exposure to UK risk
- Households and banks reliant on property market
- Concentration of wealth in housing and pension funds; lack of liquidity
- Ageing population, high cost of healthcare
- High taxation of labour
Growth driven by internal demand
Activity is expected to continue at a steady pace of growth. Despite the reappearance of inflation and the fact that 2016 tax cuts will not repeated, household consumption will continue to be the main economic driver, sustained both by continuing robust growth in private employment and disposable income. Unemployment will continue to fall, but less rapidly because of higher employment rates among older workers and the gradual integration of migrants. Long-term unemployment (25% of total unemployment, but 63% among those older than 45) will fall. Household confidence is expected to remain high, in line with the rising price of property, which forms a large part of net wealth. Thanks to this confidence and continued low interest rates, residential construction is likely to maintain its current momentum. These two parameters, on top of the increased capacity utilisation ratio, should encourage businesses to increase their investment, even if the pace could be lower than in the past year because of the uncertainty generated by Brexit. Indeed, exports to the United Kingdom, a key market, are suffering from the depreciation of sterling. Added to the government's decision to cut the quantity of gas produced and exported because of earthquake risks, it explains the weak contribution of trade to growth. A large part of the recovery observed since 2014 is explained by the upturn in the property market, which is matched by very high household debt levels (215% of disposable income at the end of 2014) and fragility in growth. However, the number of business failures is expected to fall still further in 2017 (by 4% according to Coface, against 16% in 2016), but the floor seems to have been reached.
Healthy public and external accounts
With exports of goods and services accounting for more than 80% of GDP, the Netherlands economy is very open with regard to trade and the country is among the top ten exporters in the world. It mainly supplies agrifood products (plants, flowers, dairy products, meat, fruit and vegetables), chemicals, medication, medical equipment, refined oil, IT and telephone equipment, natural gas, agricultural and construction machinery, electrical and electronic components, equipment for printing and the semi-conductor manufacture. However, half of these sales are re-exports, as the country acts as a hub for European trade. Although imports have risen faster than exports since 2015, due to the dynamism of internal demand and the sluggishness of world demand, the trade surplus will remain above 10% of GDP. Trade in services, together with transport, tourism, royalties and services to businesses, will remain in balance. The investment income balance, which is massive because of the weight of foreign investment in the country and of Dutch investments abroad, particularly from pension funds, will also be balanced. In contrast, transfers by foreign workers, international cooperation and contributions to the European budget will generate a deficit (2% of GDP). Finally, the current account surplus, although slightly smaller, will remain large. Thanks to recurrent current account surpluses, the country can post a net creditor position equivalent to 78% of GDP (to June 2016).
Fiscal consolidation has been underway for several years, with tighter measures in 2015 and 2016, specifically through cuts to welfare payments. The government balance is now in equilibrium. Excluding debt interest and the effects of the economic cycle, it shows a slight surplus. As a result, but also because of comfortable growth and the partial re-privatisation of ABN AMRO and ASR, a sign of banking sector recovery, the debt burden is projected to continue to fall. Nevertheless, a larger than expected cut in gas production could slow this decline.
Victory of the right and the centre against extreme right populism
After March 2017 general elections, Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberals (VVD) regained their prominence in the lower house (Tweede Kamer), despite a certain loss of seats compared to 2012 (33 seats against 40). Despite leading in the polls, Geert Wilders’ extreme right populist Party for Freedom (PPV), campaigning for the exit from the European Union and/or the euro and hostile to welcoming migrants, ranks only second with 20 seats (12 in 2012). At the same time, VVD’s main ally, the socio-democrats from PvdA, suffered a massive defeat, winning only 9 seats against 35 in 2012. Disappointed by this formation, electors voted for two parties of the center (social liberals from CDA and D66, each gaining 19 seats) and the Green Left (Groenlinks, 14 seats). The other striking fact is the increasing fragmentation of representation. Because of the proportional representation, Mark Rutte has to find new allies to secure a majority (76 seats). This augurs several months of discussion in order to have a sufficient coalition. The CDA and the D66 appear to be natural allies, but they will not be enough.
Last update : March 2017
Bills of exchange are rarely used in theNetherlandsbecause it is not standard business practice to do so. As inGermany, they signal mistrust on the part of the supplier and so are incompatible with the climate of trust needed to maintain a stable business relationship.
Cheques too are little used. They are an unreliable means of payment as they can be cashed only if covered. Consequently, issuing an uncovered cheque is not a criminal offence and those on the receiving end of a bounced cheque incur rather high bank charges. Under Dutch law, bills of exchange and cheques serve mainly to substantiate the existence of a debt.
By far, bank transfers are the most common means of payment. All leading Dutch banks are linked to the SWIFT electronic network, which provides low-cost, flexible, and speedy processing of international payments.
Centralising accounts, based on a centralised local cashing system and simplified management of fund repatriation, are also widely used.
The collection process begins with the debtor being served with a (registered) demand letter for the payment of the principal claim plus accrued interest and extrajudicial costs. If not agreed on by contract, Dutch law regulates the height of both (legal) interest as well as extrajudicial costs. If this ultimate amicable action does not have the desired effect, a creditor is free to initiate legal actions according to Dutch civil law.
TheNetherlandsis divided into 19 judicial districts, each with its own court. Each district court (Rechtbank) is made up of a maximum of five sectors, which always include an administrative law, criminal law, civil law (sector civiel) and sub-district or cantonal law sector (sector kanton). The judges of the last two sectors are competent to rule in most private and commercial cases. In general there are three types of civil procedures at a creditors’ disposal.
Most common is theregular civil court procedure in which claims not exceeding 25.000 EUR
have to be brought up before the cantonal law sector and claims over 25.000 EUR are presented to a judge of the civil law sector. The main difference is that in the civil law sector both plaintiff and debtor have to be represented by a lawyer, as in the cantonal sector, parties are allowed to argue their own case. Both procedures are initiated by having a bailiff serve the debtor with a writ of summons. Often a debtor neither contests the claim nor appears in court, in which case, a judgment by default is given, usually within 4-6 weeks. If a debtor does appear, the judge will set a date for him or his lawyer to prepare a written statement of defense (conclusie van antwoord). However, when appearing before the cantonal sector judge a debtor is allowed to plea his case personally and orally. After the first plea it is standard procedure for the judge to schedule a personal appearance by both parties to obtain more information and to see if a settlement is possible. If not, the court can either pass judgement immediately or, in more complex issues, give the plaintiff the opportunity to deliver a replication (conclusie van repliek), after which the defendant can reply by rejoinder (conclusie van dupliek). On average, these proceedings will take six to twelve months.
In urgent cases a claim can also be submitted to afast track procedure(kort geding). These proceedings resemble those of the regular civil court but, if convinced of plaintiffs arguments, the judge (ruled by the President of the district court) delivers a decision within a very short period of time, usually 2-4 weeks. In this rather simplified procedure the judge often gives a temporary or provisional ruling in the most pressing matters. If, after this provisional decision, parties do not come to a final settlement for all other issues, they still have to obtain a final judgement in a ‘regular’ civil suit (bodemprocedure). Unlike in some other European countries the fast track procedure in the Netherlands does not resemble a (European) payment order procedure. The procedure always requires the assistance of a lawyer as well as a personal appearance before the judge of all parties. Therefore the fast track procedure is rather expensive and not often used in regular collection cases.
A third and often effective procedure to enforce payment is filing awinding-up petitionat the district court. With this petition, which has to be filed by a lawyer, the applicant has to submit evidence of payment default on an undisputed debt and also of the existence of at least one other creditor with an undisputed claim of any kind (commercial, alimony, taxes, etc.). The debtor shall be formally notified by a bailiff of the fact that this type of legal action has been initiated.
To avoid bankruptcy the debtor can either appear in court to dispute the claim or the fact that there are other creditors, or propose an out of court settlement. As most debtors try to reach a settlement, these proceedings are often cancelled before court date. If not, and the evidence is sufficient, the debtor is declared bankrupt. Approximately 95% of all bankruptcies end without any revenues for non-preferential creditors.
In addition to starting legal action or claiming retention of title (if stipulated), a seller of goods can often exercise hisright of reclamation(recht van reclame) should the goods be left unpaid. For this he has to send a (registered) letter to the debtor in which this right is invoked and the contract is terminated. By law the ownership of the goods returns to the creditor. However, this action requires the goods still to be in their original state and the letter must be send within 6 weeks from the moment the claim is due and within 60 days after delivery of the goods.
Finally, recourse to arbitration is common in theNetherlands. Most arbitration bodies work in specific fields and arbitrators are often selected from among specialist lawyers. Arbitral awards tend to be based on equity rather than on legal considerations.