major macro economic indicators
|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|
- 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 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
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
In the Netherlands, bank transfers are the most common payment method for both domestic and export business-to-business transactions. All Dutch banks are linked to the SWIFT electronic network, which provides low-cost, flexible and rapid processing of international payments. Direct debit and different centralised local cashing systems are also widely used.
Online sales are increasingly popular - as most companies now use digital banking software and due to the introduction of the Single Europe Payment Area (SEPA) within the European Union. As a result, cash and other payment methods are gradually disappearing.
Bills of exchange are not standard business practice and are rarely used in the Netherlands. They are generally perceived as a sign of wariness on the part of the supplier and thus incompatible with the climate of trust needed to maintain a healthy business relationship.
Cheques are rarely used. As they can only be cashed if they are covered, they are an unreliable means of payment. Issuing an uncovered cheque is not a criminal offence, but payees on the receiving end of bounced cheques do incur high bank charges. Under Dutch law, bills of exchange and cheques mainly serve to substantiate the existence of debt.
A debt collection process usually begins and ends by sending the debtor a registered letter of demand for payment of the principal claim, accrued interest and extrajudicial costs. If the interest rates and/or costs have not been agreed by contract, Dutch law regulates the limits for both. If amicable actions do not result in full payment, the creditor can initiate legal action, in accordance with Dutch civil law.
In urgent cases, claims can be submitted for a fast track procedure (kort geding). These proceedings resemble those of the regular civil court but, if convinced of the plaintiff’s arguments, the judge (ruled by the President of the district court) delivers a verdict within a very short period of time - usually between 2 to 4 weeks. Using this somewhat simplified procedure, the judge often makes a temporary or provisional ruling for more urgent matters. If, subsequent to this provisional decision, the parties do not reach a final settlement on all issues, they then need to obtain a final judgement in a ‘regular’ civil suit (bodemprocedure).
The fast track procedure in the Netherlands differs from the (European) payment order procedure used in many other European states. It always requires the assistance of a lawyer and personal appearances by all parties before the judge. As this makes the fast track procedure rather expensive, it is seldom used in regular collection cases.
The regular civil court procedure is the most frequently used recourse of action. Claims of EUR 25,000 or less are heard in a cantonal court, while claims in excess of EUR 25,000 are presented before a civil law judge. The main difference in the civil law sector is that both the plaintiff and the debtor have to be represented by a lawyer, whereas in the cantonal sector, parties are permitted to argue their own cases. Both types of procedures begin with a bailiff serving the debtor with a writ of summons. In most cases, debtors do not contest the claim or appear in court. This results in a judgment by default being given, usually within four to six weeks. If the debtor does appear in court, the judge sets a date for them or their lawyer to prepare a written statement of defence (conclusie van antwoord). However, when appearing before a cantonal sector judge, debtors can represent themselves and plead their cases verbally. After the first plea, it is standard procedure for the judge to schedule personal appearances 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 cases, give the plaintiff the opportunity to deliver a replication (conclusie van repliek). The defendant can then reply by rejoinder (conclusie van dupliek). These proceedings take, on average, six to twelve months.
In addition to legal action or claiming retention of title (if stipulated), a seller of goods can often exercise his right of reclamation (recht van reclame) for unpaid goods. This requires the sending of a registered letter to the debtor in which this right is invoked and the contract is terminated. Ownership of the goods at stake is then legally returned to the creditor. This type of action necessitates the goods being in their original state. The letter must be sent within 6 weeks of the claim being due and within 60 days following delivery of the goods.
A third (and often effective) procedure for collecting payment is by filing a winding-up petition at the district court. This type of petition must be filed by a lawyer and the applicant needs to submit evidence of a payment default on an undisputed debt and of the existence of at least one other creditor having an undisputed claim of any kind (for example, commercial debt, outstanding alimony or taxes). The debtor is then formally notified by a bailiff that legal action has been initiated.
To avoid bankruptcy, the debtor can choose to 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 the date of the court hearing. Otherwise, and if there is sufficient evidence, the debtor is then declared bankrupt. Approximately 95% of all bankruptcies result in no payment being received by non-preferential creditors.
Retention of title and right of reclamation
Besides initiating legal action or claiming retention of title (if stipulated), sellers of goods can often exercise their right of reclamation (rencht van reclame) for unpaid goods. This entails sending the debtor a registered letter which invokes this right. The contract is thus terminated and by law, ownership of the goods returns to the creditor. This recourse of action does however required the goods to be in their original state. The registered letter must be sent within 6 weeks of the claim being due and within 60 days of the goods being delivered.
Enforcement of a legal decision
If a debtor does not voluntarily comply with a court decision, the creditor can initiate actions to enforce the judge’s ruling. As most court decisions become effective immediately, creditors do not need to wait for the three month period of appeal to expire. Enforcement laws lay down statutory rules on coercive measures and how these measures can be applied. In the Netherlands, only bailiffs are authorised to levy enforcements and are instructed by the creditor. Two conditions need to be met before coercive measures begin. The bailiff must be in possession of a writ of execution (an original and enforceable judgment) and the party on which the enforcement will be levied must have prior official notification of the writ.
Court decisions rendered by other EU countries benefit from specific enforcement mechanisms, including the EU payment Order and the European Small Claims procedure. Decisions issued by non-EU countries can be recognised and enforced on a reciprocal basis, provided that the issuing country is part of a bilateral or multilateral agreement with the Netherlands. In the absence of such an agreement, an exequatur procedure can be carried out in the Dutch courts.
Corporate debt restructuring entails using the suspension of payments (surseance van betaling) procedure. The debtor is granted temporary relief from creditors, in order to allow them to reorganise, continue with business operations and ultimately satisfy their creditors’ claims, all under the supervision of a court-appointed administrator. A plan is proposed and must be approved by two-thirds of the creditors representing three-quarters of the total outstanding debt.
Winding up proceedings
The debtor’s assets are liquidated by the court-appointed trustee. This procedure commences when the debtor has ceased payments and the District court has declared the debtor bankrupt. If a creditor makes a request for the debtor to be declared bankrupt, there must be at least two creditors with overdue claims. However, when liquidation is requested by the debtor, evidence of additional creditors is not mandatory.
The trustee establishes a list of creditors, the debtor’s assets are auctioned and the proceeds then distributed between the creditors.