Trade and travel: Open adventure-seekers, sober and hard-working

Text: Žikica Milošević

The Netherlands have always been a model economy for many nations in the world, since the free spirit of the people, the endevour-seeking sailors, the stubborn sea-fighting and land-reclaiming mentality made this economy really, really prosperous.

Well, not always. But at least since the Hanseatic times and the end of Spanish rule. And nowadays, the Netherlands are firmly at the top. According to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the Netherlands was the 18th largest economy of the world in 2012, while the country has only about 17 million inhabitants. Which means the following: with GDP per capita of $48,860 it is one of the richest nations in the world. And they don’t seem to stop. Between 1996 and 2000 annual economic growth (GDP) averaged over 4%, well above the European average. Growth slowed considerably in 2001-05 as part of the global economic slowdown. 2006 and 2007 however showed economic growth of 3.4% and 3.9%. Unfortunately, the Dutch economy was hit considerably by the ongoing global financial crisis and the ensuing European debt crisis. But now they are doing better.


Although surprisingly the Netherlands are not at all entirely Protestant, its rise has everything to do with Protestantism and its spirits. The rift between the Catholic Flanders and Dutch Netherlands became obvious when the common state fell apart and the northern Protestant provinces decided to separate from fiercely Catholic Spain in 1581. Flanders opted in, but the Flemish Protestants opted out, and they enriched the Dutch society with their capital. So the young country became one of the leading superpowers in the 17th centurym, and thus, the colonial power, forming colonies in New Amsterdam (later New York), Brasil (Recife) and discovering Australia. They were the first to permanently settle on the African soil, and their descendents now speak Afrikaans, the African Dutch variety.

The Dutch standard of living was the highest in the 17th century, and they had the pre-Industrial revolution powered by wind and water (sustainable energy, we would say these days, right?). It was called the Dutch Golden Age, and this economic boom eneded with first bubbles in the trade, as well as with some of the fist stock exchanges and stock exchange crashes.


Funnily, enough, the Dutch economy gave name to a negative trend. Namely, since 1959, the Netherlands discovered large natural gas fields. The export of natural gas led to large windfall profits. However, as an unforeseen consequence, these were believed to have led to a decline in the manufacturing sector in the Netherlands. The unforeseen consequences of the country’s huge energy wealth impacted the competitiveness of other sectors of the economy, leading to the theory of Dutch disease. But the Dutch have settled the problem with the open economy (they were the first to abolish trade taxes and mint the unified coins), joining the EU. Still they are the same ol’ same ol’ Dutch: trade and travel are crucial: Rotterdam as by far the biggest port in Europe and Amsterdam with one of the biggest airports in Europe. Of course, don’t forget their food and flowers. Don’t forget the electrical equipent. Don’t forget the Dutch are open, travellers and concentrated. So is their economy.


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