ECONOMY: MINERAL RESOURCES AND INDUSTRY
The country, poorly provided with mineral resources (it is almost completely devoid of metal ores), has more resources in the energy sector: more than coal (Limburg basin) and oil (Coevorden and Rijswijk fields).), natural gas counts in the local economy, of which the Netherlands are among the largest suppliers in the world with vast fields (especially around Groningen) and with reserves that experts estimate can guarantee current extraction levels for many years to come.. A dense network of gas pipelines crosses the whole country and every Dutch house can be said to use natural gas. It satisfies approx. half of the country’s energy requirements, which for the remainder essentially depend on imported oil; natural gas is also exported to various states, including Germany, France and Belgium. The energy industry is well equipped and allows for one of the highest annual per capita consumption in Europe. Modest, compared to other states, is the production of energy of nuclear origin, which finds strong opposition within the country. On the contrary, the commitment for the future use of alternative energy sources is proportionally relevant. Unlike what happened in most of the states of north-western Europe, starting with neighboring Belgium, the industrialization of the Netherlands did not start from the presence of conspicuous energy sources, but from the significant accumulation of capital obtained through traffic and trade with the overseas. In particular, the current Dutch industries derive their origin from the various manufacturing activities based on the processing of local agricultural products and imported colonial products (tobacco, spices, cocoa, sugar, rubber, oil seeds, tropical fruit, etc.), that the rich colonies supplied at low cost and the powerful merchant fleet easily brought in. This traditional industrial sector is still very flourishing, with complexes mostly located in Rotterdam and Amsterdam or in the surroundings of these cities (characteristic is in fact the dual function, mercantile and industrial, of the two metropolises): more generally, approx. half of Dutch industries are concentrated in the western section of the country, especially in the so-called Randstad Holland, where the presence of ports has favored the development of manufacturing activities, essentially linked to imports.
According to Ehealthfacts, the Netherlands, in addition to being among the world’s largest producers of cigars and cigarettes, occupies a good place in the production of cocoa, chocolate, margarine, sugar, beer and liqueurs (world renown has the curaçao). Amsterdam is also the world’s largest market for quinine and the most famous center for diamond cutting. The absence of metal ores has not prevented the establishment of the metallurgical industry (after all, as early as the 18th century the Dutch worked copper and iron with imported raw materials). The steel sector is particularly important, but the metallurgy of aluminum, zinc, tin and lead is also well represented. The mechanical sector is also important: shipbuilding has an ancient reputation (with main shipyards in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Flushing), although in recent years there has been a very serious crisis in the shipbuilding field, as indeed in every part of the world.. Considerable production in the automotive sector, connected to a thriving rubber industry, and that of railway material. The aeronautical sector, on the other hand, went through a period of crisis following the bankruptcy of the Fokker in 1996. In the electrotechnical and electronic fields, the Netherlands specializes in the supply of light bulbs, valves, semiconductor devices; Philips is based in Eindhoven, a world power in the sector despite growing technological competition from other groups, especially Japanese. At the same time, however, the level of microelectronics production has grown, as well as important signs of development in the aerospace and biotechnology sectors. Almost all concentrated along the German border is the textile industry, largely restructured and mainly focused on the processing of cotton and wool. The development of the chemical industry was also powerful, active in the sectors of artificial textile fibers, nitrogen fertilizers, plastics, sulfuric acid, pharmaceutical products, and petrochemicals: the refineries are mainly located in Rotterdam. Cement factories and leather processing, Delft) complete the extremely complex picture of the industrial sector in the Netherlands.
Favored by its geographical location, by a dense system of rivers and canals that connect the North Sea with the rest of Europe and by the presence of numerous port basins, trade has always been a driving component of the economy of the Netherlands, which can boast a long and solid tradition in this area. Always sensitive to the initiatives of cooperation and economic integration of Western Europe, the country is the promoter of intense commercial relations especially with Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Italy, United States and Japan. In 2002, the total value of exports exceeded that of imports.
For some production branches the foreign market is more important than the domestic one. We mainly export fuels, chemicals and petrochemicals, foodstuffs (meat and derivatives, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, etc.), vehicles and machinery (including electrical equipment well represented), various industrial products; mainly cereals and other foodstuffs, oil, minerals, raw materials in general are imported, but also many industrial products that the country is unable to supply. The country can count on a very complex banking and financial system. Until the introduction of the euro (which took place on January 1, 2002), the national monetary unit was the forint, issued by the central bank (De Nederlansche Bank NV). The Amsterdam Stock Exchange is among the largest in Europe. The system of communication routes (roads, railways, inland waterways) is highly developed: it reaches its highest points in Rotterdam and Amsterdam and is peripherally linked to the ports of the North Sea, connecting on the eastern side with Germany, on the southern side with Belgium. The internal waterways, which overall develop for approx. 6,250 km (the Dutch waterway density is the highest in the world) and through which a third of the goods transported in the country transit, have played a decisive role in determining the prevailing role of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Prominent waterways are those of the Rhine-Waal and the Meuse; very dense, although less important, is the network of canals which in the northern section of the country leads to Groningen. Extremely efficient rail and road networks connect the country with the rest of Western Europe. Very active are the international air connections, which have one of the most functional airports in Europe at Schiphol (Amsterdam); followed by importance are the airports of Zestienhoven (Rotterdam), Eelde (Groningen), Beek (Maastricht), also international. National company is the KLM which, founded in 1919, is the oldest commercial airline in the world and one of the largest in terms of network size. The importance of trade also explains the development of the Dutch merchant navy, and even more so of port facilities. The trade movement with foreign countries essentially takes place through the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Rotterdam is connected to the sea and the Europoort port by the Nieuwe Waterweg (New Canal), along which the imposing petrochemical complexes of the city overlook, while the maritime connection of Amsterdam is ensured by the North Sea Canal. Other major ports include Hoek van Holland (opposite Europoort) and Flushing, important for passenger movement. The Netherlands has an articulated network of hotel services: tourism is in fact a highly developed sector thanks to the presence of both scenic and artistic and cultural attractions. Among the naturalistic itineraries it is worth mentioning the coastal one, along the dikes, from the island of Walcheren to the lowland of Friesland, the Hoge Veluwe National Park, also home to the Kröller-Müller museum, the island of Schiermonnikoog, a nature reserve famous for its beaches of fine sand and Kinderdijk, one of the best known corners of the country, dotted with windmills. Given the large presence of rivers and canals, there are also numerous opportunities to visit the country aboard historic sailing ships, boats, house boats.