Economic growth -0.7 percent in 2003

Dutch economic growth was minus 0.7 percent in 2003. The last time the gross domestic product decreased in the space of one year was in 1982. According to Statistics Netherlands quarterly estimate, GDP was 0.4 percent down in the fourth quarter of 2003 on the same quarter in 2002. The first estimates, published on 12 February, put economic growth at -0.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2003 and at -0.8 percent for the whole year.

Exports picked up at the end of 2003. The decrease in fixed capital formation slowed down. Once again government consumption contributed positively to economic growth. Household consumption was down.

Quarter-on-quarter growth 0.4 percent

After adjustment for seasonal and working day effects, the volume of GDP was 0.4 percent higher in the fourth quarter than in the third quarter of 2003. This slight increases follows a stabilisation in the third quarter and three successive quarters of negative growth.

Exports and imports pick up again in fourth quarter

The volume of exports of goods and services was 1.1 percent larger in the fourth quarter of 2003 than twelve months previously. The volume of imports was 1.9 percent higher. These increases come after two quarters in which imports and exports had decreased.

Smaller decrease for investment

Fixed capital formation was 0.5 percent lower In the fourth quarter of 2003 than one year previously. This was the tenth quarter in a row that fixed capital formation fell, but the decrease was the smallest for two years, curbed by among other things the high production levels of aircraft.

Investment in office buildings, lorries, company cars and machinery and equipment was lower than twelve months previously, while considerably more was spent on computers.

Government consumption continues to increase

The volume increase in government consumption was 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2003. The growth rate is therefore the same as in the first three quarters. Spending on care rose by most. The government also spent more on public administration and education, although the increase was smaller than in 2002. Government consumption thus served to compensate the negative growth elsewhere in the economy.

Household consumption lower

Households spent 1.9 percent less in the last quarter of last year than in the last quarter of 2002. The decrease was the same as in the third quarter. The greatest fall in the fourth quarter was in spending on durable goods, with spending on furniture and other home furnishings down in particular. Car sales were also lower than twelve months previously, although this was mainly because of the ending of subsidies on certain types of car at the end of 2002. Consumers spent slightly less on food, drink and tobacco, but slightly more on  services in the fourth quarter.

Slower production decrease for private sector

In most commercial sectors of industry production was lower in the forth quarter of 2003 than twelve months previously. However, on average the decrease was smaller in most sectors than in 2003. The largest decreases were in manufacturing and construction. In commercial services, retail trade, hotels and restaurants, and employment agencies showed notable decreases. Telecom companies and banks on the other hand increased their production.

Production by the care sector and the government sector was 2.6 percent higher in the fourth quarter of 2003 than one year previously. This increase was slightly smaller than increase over the whole of 2002.

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