The growth of the Dutch economy lagged far behind that in recent years. The volume of the gross domestic product (GDP) was 1.1% higher, the smallest increase since 1993. Economic growth slowed down in the course of the year: in the fourth quarter growth it was only 0.4%. These estimates are the same as those published on 14 February by Statistics Netherlands.
The increase in exports in particular was much lower. Consumption by households also grew by much less than in 2000. Investment was even lower than in 2000. The only growth increase was for government consumption, according to the latest results of the quarterly national accounts.
Just above recession level
After adjustment for calendar and seasonal effects the growth in the fourth quarter on the third quarter was 0.0%, the same as in the third quarter on the second. The Netherlands therefore remains just above the level of economic recession.
Exports hardly up
The volume of both exports and imports of goods and services increased by only 0.9% in 2001, a substantial drop from the 9.5% and 9.4% respectively in 2000. Growth slowed down considerably in the course of 2001. In the fourth quarter of 2001 there was even a volume decrease o f 4.1% for exports compared with one year previously. The volume of imports also fell (-5.0%). Exporters increasingly felt the consequences of the rapid global deterioration in the economic climate.
The decreases in imports and exports were exacerbated in the fourth quarter by plummeting re-exports: products imported into the Netherlands and then exported again without having undergone further processing (e.g. computers). In the fourth quarter, however, fewer Dutch products were also exported.
Following the high growth rates in recent years fixed capital formation was down 1.1% in 2001. The decrease was mostly for investment spending on machinery, computers, freight vehicles and aeroplanes. Investment spending on infrastructure projects, often financed by the government, rose considerably again in 2001. Most of this spending was on the Betuwe and high-speed rail links. Investment in housing remained stable while investment in non-residential buildings was higher than in 2000, although the growth rates slowed down.
Government consumption picked up
At 3.4% in 2001, the volume growth of government consumption was clearly higher than the 1.9% in 2000. For the first time since 1993 the increase in government consumption was higher than total economic growth. Both the higher expenditure on health care and that on education and public administration were behind this.
The volume growth of household consumption was 1.2% in 2001, down sharply from the 3.8% in 2000. Durable consumer goods are an important category for consumers. Spending on this category increased by significantly less than average, while it had risen by more than average in previous years.
Right from the start of the year the increase in consumer spending was much lower in 2001 than in 2000, in spite of the fact that purchasing power increased because of a cut in income tax rates. Consumers put their extra money safely away into savings accounts instead of spending it.
Manufacturing production down
Parallel to the development in exports, the manufacturing industry also went through a turning point in 2001. Manufacturing output was 1% down in 2001. In the fourth quarter it fell by as much as 3% compared with the same period in 2000. The fact that manufacturers used up stocks of finished products contributed to this decline. The increase in manufacturing output was as high as 4.7% in 2000. The turning point was visible across the board. Construction was up 1%, prompted mainly by the large infrastructure projects. In commercial services growth was also down in 2001 on 2000. Lower growth rates were reported by both the trade, hotels and restaurants, and transport sector, as well as by financial and business services. The air traffic industry
had a bad fourth quarter as a consequence of the terrorist attacks in the United