Estudios Económicos
Netherlands

Netherlands

Population 17.0 million
GDP 45,658 US$
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

 

  2015 2016 2017(f) 2018(f)
GDP growth (%) 2.3 2.2 3.1 2.6
Inflation (yearly average, %) 0.2 0.1 1.3 1.4
Budget balance (% GDP) -2.0 0.4 0.6 0.9
Current account balance (% GDP) 8.6 8.5 10.0 10.0
Public debt (% GDP) 64.6 61.8 57.4 54.2

(f): forecast

 

SECTOR RISK ASSESSMENTS

 

STRENGTHS

  • 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

WEAKNESSES

  • Economy reliant on European economic cycle
  • Exposure to the UK; Brexit-related risks
  • 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

RISK ASSESSMENT

Growth driven by internal demand and by expansionary fiscal policy

Activity is expected to continue to grow at a very dynamic pace in 2018, and is expected to be higher than 2% for the fourth consecutive year. The biggest growth contributions will likely be delivered by private consumption and investment, followed by public consumption. These trends are supported by an expansionary fiscal policy package, which was agreed on by the new four-party government. This package includes lower income taxes and higher expenditures in the areas of social affairs, defence, and education, and aims to attract higher private expenditures as well.

Household consumption is notably driven by very dynamic growth in employment, with an approximate 4% decrease of unemployment over the course of 2018. Investment outlays by corporations are driven by the fact that capacity utilisation rates reached their pre-crisis levels again. One key issue to observe carefully is the Dutch property market in liaison with the development of private household debt: House prices went up by more than 20% from mid-2013 and are back to their pre-crisis level. Despite the dynamic increase in house prices, this trend is probably not debt-driven, as total mortgage debt is hardly growing. Furthermore, household debt as a percentage of net disposable income is on a downward trend. According to OECD data, this ratio stood at 270.1% in 2016. Admittedly, this is a very high level in terms of international comparison, but it is almost 24 percentage points less than in 2010. The very good macroeconomic environment is reflected in the strong downward pressure on business insolvencies. Coface forecasts a fifth decrease in a row in 2018. Bankruptcies are expected to fall by 10%, after a decrease of more than 20% in 2017.

General government and current account balance in surplus

The Dutch economy is very open regarding trade, with exports of goods and services accounting for more than 150% of GDP, and the country being among the top ten exporters in the world. It mainly supplies agrofood products (plants, flowers, dairy products, meat, fruit and vegetables), chemicals, medication and medical equipment, refined oil, IT and telephone equipment, natural gas, agricultural and construction machinery, electrical and electronic components, equipment for printing and semi-conductor manufacture. However, half of these sales are re-exports, as the country acts as a hub for European trade. Although import growth is picking up due to dynamic growth in Dutch incomes, the trade surplus will likely remain above 10% of GDP. As perspectives for world trade improved significantly in 2017, Dutch exports have been boosted as well. Trade in services, together with transport, tourism, royalties, and services to businesses, will likely remain slightly in negative figures. The net financial account balance is negative, although FDIs in the Netherlands increased over the last two years. On the other hand, Dutch investment abroad was even higher. Finally, the current account surplus is expected to increase into double-digit area. Thanks to recurrent current account surpluses, the country can post a net creditor position equivalent to about 70% of GDP. Fiscal policy stance has been loosened with the formation of the new government, but despite planned higher government expenditures from 2018 onwards, the general government balance is expected to remain in surplus. As a consequence, general government gross debt decreased below the Maastricht threshold of 60% in 2017.

After long negotiations, a four-parties coalition was built up

Seven months after the general elections, the re-elected Prime Minister Mark Rutte was able to build a new government, comprised of his liberal VVD party, the left-liberal party D66, and the two Christian parties: CDA and Christenunie. This coalition has a majority of only one seat in the parliament in The Hague; and combined with wide-spread political interests across the four-party government, a premature break-up is within the realms of possibility. In such a difficult political environment, far-reaching reforms are highly unlikely.

 

Last update : January 2018

Payment

 

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.

 

Debt Collection

 

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. 

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