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Annual Report of the Secretary-General
by Mari Amano
Honorable Chair, Vice Chairs, APO Directors, Advisers, Observers, Ladies, and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I welcome all of you to the 56th Governing Body Meeting hosted by the Government of Vietnam and the Vietnam Productivity Centre. We are very grateful to our host country for making tremendous efforts to organize what will indeed be a very successful meeting. I am deeply honored that APO member governments elected me as its 10th Secretary-General at the last GBM. Allow me now to deliver my first annual report as the APO Secretary-General. The details of the annual report are found in document number two. I will only summarize the key points of the report.
Since my appointment last September, I have met several APO Directors and NPO Heads to understand their challenges better. I intend to continue this form of close engagement. From the feedback by member countries, it is clear that enhancing productivity will remain a top priority for all of them. It is also clear that while there is no need to revamp APO programs completely, we must further enrich and deepen programs by focusing on specific and impactful areas.
Last year, we started a major exercise to assess the needs of member countries. It is still underway but one of the initial findings was that in-country programs such as the Technical Expert Services and Center of Excellence, or COE, as well as core productivity training programs are key programs that must be strengthened.
Our COE Program is a success story. The first COE on Business Excellence, or BE, launched with SPRING Singapore four years ago catalyzed interest in using the BE framework to recognize productive and competitive enterprises. The impact of this COE went beyond member countries, as I served as a judge for a BE Award organized by the United Arab Emirates last November. The second COE on Green Productivity, or GP, was launched last year with the China Productivity Center. It will assist member countries to carry out GP research and projects.
The eighth and ninth Eco-products International Fairs, or EPIFs, held in Singapore in 2013 and the ROC in 2014, respectively, served as successful showcases of eco-friendly products and services for hundreds of companies. The new Eco-products Directory launched during the EPIF had the most business entries so far. As flagship projects, we are now redesigning the EPIF and directory together to ensure that they continue to remain effective programs to support the GP strategy.
The importance of high visibility of APO programs cannot be overstated. I strongly believe that more publicity for our activities will help convince business enterprises and institutions of the need to improve their productivity continuously and at the same time boost the efforts of member governments to raise awareness of national productivity movements.
In 2013, APO activities were covered in 270 news articles, web-based news sites, and TV broadcasts around the world. This was more than triple the 80 in 2012. In addition to traditional outreach efforts, we also used new media. For example, in the last quarter of 2013, the APO’s Facebook “likes” increased by more than 50%.
At the international level, our research on productivity continues to receive attention from prominent institutions and the media. The APO Productivity Databook, another of the APO’s flagship projects, attracts considerable attention from governments and other international organizations such as the OECD and ADB.
Host countries have also been receiving extensive media coverage when implementing APO projects. The study mission on Photovoltaic and Solar Cell Technology was widely featured in major Japanese media including TV. The workshop on Energy Policy in the APO Region was extensively covered by the media in Pakistan.
We also took a new approach by inviting media representatives to participate in a study mission to Japan. Apart from disseminating knowledge on new technologies and best practices, the APO was also cited in their news broadcasts. Through that project, we were able to establish a strong international media network.
Of course, visibility should not be at the expense of tangible benefits for project participants. The participants in the Photovoltaic and Solar Cell Technology mission were able to learn and transfer knowledge on best practices and advanced solar technologies and applications as well as form business networks with one another.
Communities in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Mekong region benefited from joint efforts by the APO and member governments to develop the capacities of local organizations that support agritourism and ecotourism.
We were also able to contribute to national policy making. High-ranking representatives from governments, labor unions, and the automotive industry of seven member countries met in Tokyo last November to discuss and draft national policies for improving labor-management relations.
In collaboration with the Japan Productivity Center and GOJ, the APO has been carrying out the Member Country Support Program since 2002. Through this program, India was able to strengthen its productivity promotion, training, and consultancy capacity in material flow cost accounting.
We were successful in our international partnership efforts. For example, in collaboration with the International Energy Agency, ADB, and Thailand, we organized a five-day program in Bangkok for 33 participants from 14 APO members as well as eight from non-APO members to learn the latest in electricity transmission and renewable energy. It was one of the APO’s biggest collaborative efforts.
The APO also cooperated with four other organizations to launch the 1st Asian Food and Agribusiness Conference in Taipei in cooperation with the ROC government. Seventy industry leaders, government officials, and academics from 13 member countries attended.
One of my first priorities when I became Secretary-General was to rejuvenate the Secretariat. My goal was not just to increase the number of staff members to implement all our programs more effectively but, more importantly, to inject positive energy and boost the morale and confidence of the staff. In the past half-year, we have hired four professional staff from Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Two of them are from NPOs.
Our Secretariat staff need to be highly motivated, energetic, and responsible and possess the skill, maturity, and desire to deliver better programs for our member countries. To have the flexibility to recruit a variety of staff that will be a better fit for the APO, I have extended downward, not upward, the salary scales of both professional and general service staff.
Activities planned for 2014
I am thus confident that all our projects planned for 2014 will be implemented this year with the cooperation of member countries. I would also like to take this opportunity to encourage members to provide more cash grants so that we can undertake even more projects. At this point, my deepest appreciation goes to the Governments of Japan and the ROC for their regular and generous special cash grants.
Less than two weeks ago, MOFA Japan provided another cash grant of more than half a million US dollars. This will enable the APO to organize an agriculture innovation project for leaders from Myanmar to convince its government of the benefits of being a member of the APO as well as three projects related to the environment, solar energy, and sustainable cities. It underscores the commitment and support from Japan, the host country of the APO.
The four cash grant projects from MOFA will be added to the activities for 2014. The 2014 Program Plan will now contain 69 multicountry projects, seven more than the 62 presented at the GBM last year.
In 2014, we will restart study missions to more advanced economies such the USA and Europe to learn the latest trends and best practices in areas such as smart grids.
The Secretariat will also redouble efforts to work with NPOs in two areas: first, in-country programs to build their capacities in advanced green technologies and undertake specific projects targeting education, food production, farming, and SMEs.
Second, we would like to conduct more relevant multicountry programs and strengthen this unique APO platform. NPOs have already indicated that they would like to enhance service- and public-sector productivity in subsectors such as public transportation, medical services, local government, customs clearance, and banking.
One way to involve NPOs more closely in planning better programs is through the periodic attachment of NPO staff to the Secretariat with the aim of deepening mutual understanding and paving the way for better-designed programs. I am still assessing the feasibility of this and will be consulting member countries further.
In the area of agriculture and food, we will continue activities to strengthen the capacity of developing economies in food supply chain management. This year will signal the start of the third five-year program grant of MAFF Japan to the APO. Aside from supporting national initiatives, we will also be organizing two observational study missions.
In the area of productivity research, we will continue to explore ways to allow other international organizations to collaborate on the APO Productivity Databook. A smartphone app of the APO Productivity Database has been developed and will be released this year.
In addition, we are currently planning to form a global research alliance on strategic areas such as GP, innovation-led growth, and SME development. Renowned organizations such as The World Bank Group and American Productivity and Quality Center as well as eminent experts have indicated interest in working with us.
Activities planned for 2015 and beyond
The lineup of programs and projects proposed for the new 2015/2016 biennium was endorsed by the delegates attending the last WSM in Fiji.
For the 2015/2016 biennium, we plan to continue programs on improving public-sector productivity and equipping SMEs to become both strong domestic and global players.
In rural areas, we plan projects to promote entrepreneurship, especially among women, and the development of social enterprises, including rural tourism development. We will also research the impact on SMEs of issues such as gender, aging, and diversity so that practical solutions can be proposed.
In the area of GP, we will promote green growth by incorporating eco-innovation, green procurement, promotion of eco-products, and energy efficiency. The promotion of more climate change-resilient farming systems and agriculture development planning will also remain essential projects.
The preliminary budget for the 2015/2016 biennium is presented for the approval of the GBM. The first scenario for the 2015/2016 budget is to maintain the same level of total membership contributions, while the second scenario assumes a 5% increase in total membership contributions.
A paradigm shift will be required to plan programs better. While a tentative program for 2015/2016 has been developed, I would like to explore new ideas so that we can respond even quicker to member countries.
For example, I would like to refine and expand the e-learning program to target professionals directly. I see e-learning as having huge potential not just to complement traditional methods of disseminating knowledge but also as a new revenue source.
To be more effective in engaging nonmember countries such as Brunei, Myanmar, Turkey, and the UAE, we will identify relevant APO programs and activities for them. Last year, three Turkish government officers participated in our productivity analysis workshop at their own expense. With this targeted approach, we aim to convince these countries of the benefits of being part of the APO family.
To expand the APO’s presence outside the Asia-Pacific, I would also like to strengthen cooperation with African countries, particularly with the Pan-African Productivity Association, and with organizations such as the OECD and the World Confederation of Productivity Science.
It has been an interesting and eventful seven months as the APO Secretary-General. This GBM provides the first opportunity for me to meet many APO Directors. I am confident that with your strong support, we will develop a more comprehensive plan to increase the APO’s impact not just in the Asia-Pacific but across the entire world. Thank you very much.