major macro economic indicators
|GDP growth (%)||-0.5||1.0||2.0||1.8|
|Inflation (yearly average) (%)||2.6||0.3||0.2||1.2|
|Budget balance (% GDP)||-2.4||-2.4||-2.1||-1.5|
|Current account balance (% GDP)||11.0||10.6||10.0||9.9|
|Public debt (% GDP)||67.9||68.2||68.6||67.9|
- Port activity (Rotterdam, leading European port)
- Good competitiveness indicators
- Diversified exports and external accounts in surplus
- High quality infrastructures
- Economy dependent on European economic cycle
- Substantial household mortgage debt
- Ageing population, high cost of healthcare
Domestic demand driving growth
The contribution to growth by the internal drivers of the economy grew sharply in 2015. Investment rose vigorously, especially in the residential construction sector. Household confidence firmed up in response to the recovery of the property market and lower inflation, leading to an upturn in consumption, despite a still very high level of indebtedness (215% of disposable income at end 2014). The government's decision to reduce natural gas extraction, because of the risk of earthquakes, has however dampened export momentum.
The high level of household and business confidence, and the continued increase in production capacity should maintain domestic demand at fairly robust levels in 2016. Growth is likely to increase at a pace similar to that of 2015. While inflation is on an upward trend, the government's announced tax cuts should boost households' disposable income. The rise in labour productivity and low real interest rates are expected to sustain investment. The contribution of net external demand is set to remain very weak or even become slightly negative.
Imports are now rising faster than exports
The Dutch economy is very open with regard to trade and the country ranks among the top ten exporters in the world. It mainly supplies refined petroleum, natural gas, vehicles, electrical and IT equipment. Half of these sales are re-exports, the country playing the role of a hub for European trade. However, the outlook for external trade has slightly deteriorated. So, buoyant domestic demand will continue to sustain the rise in imports while sluggish world demand, associated in particular with the slowdown in emerging economies, is likely to restrain the expansion of exports, even if to a limited degree, because of the country's exposure to the German industrial sector. By contrast, the weakness of the euro is likely to continue to be a positive factor.
Public finances remain healthy, the unemployment rate has receded and inflation is rising
After dropping below the 3% threshold in 2013, the budget deficit again declined in 2015 thanks to lower social spending and transfers. The reduction in gas production decided in January 2015 has however limited the improvement in public accounts. Lower social welfare benefits should help again to reduce the deficit in 2016 despite the government's announced tax cuts. Risks such as a larger than expected cut in gas production or the fact that the costs of welcoming the migrants could be higher than the sums budgeted could put pressure on these results. Apart from these risks, the ratio of the public debt to GDP, lower than the euro zone average, is expected to fall slightly in 2016 on the back of the decline in the deficit and the increase in national wealth.
The unemployment rate, down since early 2014, has tended to stabilise in the second half of 2015 at around 6.9%. It is expected to fall slightly in 2016 as employment rises. Inflation, which fell into negative territory at the start of 2015, has started to edge up since due to higher prices for services. The fall in energy and food prices, which curbed this resurgence of inflation in 2015, is expected to wear off in 2016 with the general price level continuing to rise.
Situation of the banks and businesses consolidating
Hit in recent years by the 2007-08 financial crisis, the deterioration of the local property market and the recession, the banking system is gradually emerging from restructuring. The banks continue to make adjustments in a context of tighter capital and liquidity requirements. Their capitalisation levels are now well above the required minimum. Lending continues to fall, even though consumer lending seems to have reached its lowest point at the start of 2015 and the demand for credit is now rising. The financial situation of businesses has gradually improved. Their margins recently increased thanks to lower energy prices and competitiveness gains due to the fall of the euro. Insolvencies peaked in May 2013 and have fallen back substantially since. Over the first ten months of 2015, they were down 22% compared to the same period in 2014.
(Last update : January 2016 )
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.