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The Asian Productivity Organization (APO) successfully concluded a three-day international conference on Policies for Productivity Growth in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 9–11 August 2017. Since government policies and programs play a pivotal role in driving national productivity growth, the conference helped member countries identify a common agenda to create a conducive environment for productivity enhancement.
Over time, the concept of productivity has become more comprehensive, focusing on achieving sustainable development including economic, social, and environmental parameters. Accordingly, government policies and programs need to be well formulated and appropriately implemented to ensure that the efforts ultimately contribute to productivity increases and function as a long-term lever to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
With several APO member countries presently reviewing and reforming their policies to mainstream the 17 goals and 169 targets of the SDGs, the conference also created the Colombo Declaration, an outcome document with 18 recommendations for APO members to convert into action plans for accelerating productivity growth while achieving the SDGs. The declaration was unveiled by Secretary of Public Administration and Management and APO Director for Sri Lanka Javigodage Jayadewa Rathnasiri.
Delivering the welcome address, National Productivity Secretariat Director General Thilaka Jayasundara hoped that conference participants would put its learning points into practice their own countries. Fifty participants from 15 APO member countries attended the conference conducted by seven international and four local experts.
The delegates recognized that government policies, strategies, programs, and actions were instrumental in steering national productivity growth and ensuring a balance among economic, social, and environmental aspects leading to achievement of the SDGs. As the issue of productivity cuts across sectors, it was agreed that policies needed to take an integral but balanced approach considering national development planning and budgetary processes, important economic sectors, and key national actors who could be fundamental in advancing the productivity agenda for achieving sustainable development.
Conference delegates found that there was an urgent need to review national economic development policies and programs to achieve higher levels of productivity performance and national competitiveness in all sectors, while aligning them with the global SDGs. The outcome document noted that since many APO members were agriculture-based economies, it was necessary to develop productivity concepts and indexes specifically for agricultural productivity.
It also highlighted that the involvement of multiple stakeholders at national level, global partnerships, and international cooperation were essential to achieve the SDGs and recommended that governments leverage existing national bodies like national productivity organizations (NPOs) to steer the process and prepare roadmaps for stakeholder consultations, evolve cooperative discourse platforms, and establish global partnerships in various thematic areas, especially energy, the environment, health, education, infrastructure, and disaster prevention. Such national bodies and NPOs could be mandated to develop national implementation frameworks to meet the SDGs.