“The Netherlands is the gateway to Europe,” said Annemieke Ruigrok, Consul General of the Netherlands, speaking at a Chamber roundtable on 22 January. “It operates some of the world’s busiest and most efficient sea and airports. The ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, as well as Schiphol Airport, are among the top in the European Union.”
In its role as a gateway, the country shares many similarities with Hong Kong. Both are also open economies that depend heavily on foreign trade and investment.
With a population of 17.4 million, the Netherlands is also a is a multicultural society, the Consul General added. It is the 18th largest economy in the world, and the sixth largest in the E.U. The employment rate declined for five consecutive years to 3.4% in 2019.
Introducing the key characteristics of the Netherlands’ economy, Aart Jan den Hartog, Country Manager and Head of Wholesale Banking Greater China and Mongolia of ING Bank, said: “The Netherlands has 2.3 times the population of Hong Kong, 2.5 times the economy and 1.1 times GDP per capita.”
The Netherlands has a diversified and vibrant range of industries, with the services sector taking up a large share. Its top sectors include agriculture and food, high-tech systems and materials, life sciences and health, logistics, energy, and creative industries.
Although the manufacturing industry is not as important as it once was, it still plays a crucial role. Manufacturing contributes a 10.9% share of the economy, according to figures from Macrobond – a significantly higher proportion than in Hong Kong at 1.1%.
“Domestic demand remains the major growth engine of the Netherlands,” Hartog said. “The Dutch economy is structurally driven by knowledge-intensive industries and remains an attractive place to invest, with growth expected to continue.”
Looking forward, the country is also working to improve its sustainability standing, including through encouraging better practices from the business sector. The country of windmills has set 17 ambitious sustainable development goals, and has promised to achieve a circular economy with zero waste by 2050. To achieve this, raw materials will be used and reused efficiently, and without creating harmful emissions.
Grant Sprick, Global Director of Sustainability of Arcadis, gave a positive assessment of the Netherlands’ efforts to improve its environmental impact.
“To reach its targets, the Dutch government has launched attractive policies to raise public awareness on sustainability,” he said. “It is also closely monitoring the country’s carbon emissions.”
For example, the government has created a carbon performance “ladder” to encourage greener practices among businesses. Corporates that achieve a score of five, the highest possible, will enjoy a 5% tax deduction.
“These policies are encouraging private corporations to cooperate with the government to join the green programmes,” he said.
The Netherlands is also developing several green projects that are expected to deliver long-term benefits to the environment. Sprick introduced Wonderwoods, a “vertical forest” in the city of Utrecht. This mixed-use development of apartments and offices will also include around 360 trees and thousands more shrubs. This greenery helps reduce carbon dioxide, and will also cut energy use within the building.
Other green-focused developments in the country include the upgrade of the Driebergen-Zeist station using recycled and sustainable materials, and Unilever’s new Hive food innovation centre, which is run on an energy-neutral basis.
“The Netherlands is striving hard to improve people’s quality of life by balancing the social and economic benefits,” Sprick said.