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Before the Dutch disease infects the Gulf

UNICEF ranked The Netherlands as the best country in the world for children to grow up in

Turki Aldakhil

Published: Updated:

Although The Netherlands is small, it was categorized in May 2011 as the world’s happiest country, according to data from the International Cooperation Organization. UNICEF ranked The Netherlands as the best country in the world for children to grow up in.

This happiness has undoubtedly influenced its economic success. It is one of the 10 largest export economies, and the 18th-largest economy in the world. The Stock Exchange of Amsterdam, the country’s economic capital, is one of the oldest in the world.

There are important global organizations in The Netherlands, such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. They are headquartered in The Hague, the political capital.

The Dutch are open-minded, welcome most foreigners and celebrate differences. Although they are proud of their identity and language, they speak fluent English, the most famous global language.

If The Netherlands had not risen from the slumber of consumption, it would not have become one of the largest economies in the world today. It is a significant lesson

Turki Aldakhil

The Dutch can be classified as non-religious. Despite the negative connotations of this that may cross Arab readers’ minds, religion in The Netherlands and in most of Europe is a very sensitive topic that is preferably not discussed without asking permission from those with whom you are conversing.

Of the country’s population of 17 million, 13 percent are Muslim, most of them Moroccan immigrants. A Moroccan diplomat told me that there are roughly as many Moroccan immigrants in The Netherlands as there are in Belgium, yet most Moroccans in the former have fared much better than most of those in the latter because the environments regarding immigration are different, and because success is encouraged in The Netherlands.

Economic struggle

Dutch success was not sudden, as the country passed through an economic phase called “the Dutch disease.” Between 1900 and 1950, petroleum was discovered in the North Sea, resulting in the Dutch people becoming lazy and complacent. They favored extravagant spending, and paid the price for their unproductivity as oil and gas began to deplete and unemployment rose.

People realized that disability benefits were better than unemployment benefits. The national currency exchange rate increased, as did the price of local goods, so they could not compete against imports, which became cheaper. As a result, production decreased and imports rose. If The Netherlands had not risen from the slumber of consumption, it would not have become one of the largest economies in the world today. It is a significant lesson.

This article was first published in al-Bayan on July 13, 2016.
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Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.