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Annual Report of the Secretary-General
by Mari Amano
Distinguished APO Directors,
Ladies, and Gentlemen:
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the 57th session of the APO Governing Body in Krung Thep Maha Nakhon. I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Government of Thailand and the Thailand Productivity Institute for hosting this year’s GBM.
I will provide an overview of the annual report, which comprises two parts. The first part reports mainly on the APO’s achievements during 2014. The second part reports on the APO’s planned activities for 2015 and 2016. The lineups of programs and projects for both 2015 and 2016 were developed two years ago. These were last discussed before being endorsed by the WSM held in Sri Lanka in October 2014. The 2015 budget was approved by the Governing Body via circulation two months ago, while the preliminary budget for 2016 will be presented for the approval of the GBM under Agenda Item 14.
Part 1. The APO’s achievements during 2014
As I promised at last year’s GBM, the level of APO activities in 2014 increased significantly. In 2014, the APO implemented 172 projects, of which 13 are in progress. This was an increase of about 25% compared with the average of the past three years.
Media coverage of the APO has also grown exponentially over the past two years, thanks to the outstanding efforts of member countries. Some of our project participants from the media even produced videos that were broadcast over national television networks as well as through social media. The importance of improving the visibility of the APO cannot be overstated as it creates a positive, lasting impact on policymakers as well as other stakeholders.
One of our signature projects is the highly visibleAPO Productivity Databook, the outcome of a long-standing collaboration with Keio University and Professor Dale Jorgenson of Harvard University. The databook has become the definitive reference on productivity statistics for the Asia-Pacific and now comes with its own smartphone app.
The Center of Excellence program established five years ago has been very successful in facilitating the sharing of knowledge and best practices among member countries. In 2014, some of the main achievements of the COE on Green Productivity included developing the GP Excellence Award framework and enhancing the “green” technical capabilities of member countries through the dispatch of experts. A third COE is about to be established, provided that this GBM endorses the Proposal for New Centers of Excellence under Agenda Item 13.
An important element to coordinate national GP activities is the GP Advisory Committee. In just one year, the number of GPACs has shot up from one to three, with the ROC and Sri Lanka following the footsteps of Japan by establishing their own GPACs under the International GPAC initiative. This marked another significant achievement in the GP movement started by the APO 20 years ago. The GPAC was instrumental in advising on the 9th Eco-products International Fair held in Taipei last March which attracted more than 17,000 visitors with 200 exhibitors. A follow-up event was the GP World Conference also held in Taipei with around 400 delegates in attendance. The conference adopted the GP Commitment Document that was sent to the UN as an input for its new Sustainable Development Goals.
The APO constantly reviews its initiatives to ensure relevancy and effectiveness. This year’s EPIF had to be postponed to 2016 as no member country volunteered to host it. The APO suspended work on updating its eco-products database to avoid duplicating similar ones already existing in member countries.
Consultations with NPOs will be required to understand the reasons why some other projects could not be implemented. Cancelling projects that have become less relevant to the needs of member countries frees up limited resources that can now be channeled to new, emerging areas. For example, the APO organized its first project targeting the banking sector in India last November. It provided senior bank executives with strategic insights into measuring and analyzing productivity indicators. In addition, the first APO International Productivity Showcase and Best Practice Networking Forum on SMEs was held in Sri Lanka.
The Technical Expert Service Program supports the dispatch of experts to member countries. TES has been very well received and remains a core APO program. Last year, an expert from the Institute for Management Development was sent to Malaysia to give a presentation on the competitiveness challenges facing its economy at a major conference attended by leaders from the public and private sectors. This conference was widely covered in the local press and electronic media.
We also revived missions to nonmember developed countries to expose participants to international best practices and advanced technological applications in relevant subject areas. These included one to London to learn from the state-of-the-art approaches to risk management in food supply chains; one to Hawaii to examine the latest trends in the use of smart energy grids and the technological challenges in making them more productive and competitive; and one to Texas to allow senior executives of NPOs to learn from the American Productivity & Quality Center’s sophisticated business and service models. The APO will continue to explore new topics and identify destinations outside the region for valuable learning opportunities.
The APO also implemented projects in two key areas to contribute to inclusive development: first, empowering and increasing women’s participation in business and other entrepreneurial areas; and second, supporting rural projects focused on agritourism and ecotourism. I thank Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka for their support in organizing these projects and seek the cooperation of other members in hosting similar ones to meet the increasing demand.
Last year, the APO continued to offer videoconference-based e-learning courses as well as self-e-learning courses. One very successful course was on Food Safety Management, which attracted more than 1,700 participants from APO member countries and 14 nonmember countries from Australia in the south to Norway in the north. Our cost-effective e-learning courses, which complement multicountry projects, will be expanded to reach out to a global audience.
Special cash grant projects
Special cash grants from the Government of Japan enable us to supplement the annual programs. The five-year Special Program for Strengthening Agricultural Partnerships with ASEAN LDCs was completed early this year. This program supported food-related companies, particularly in Cambodia and Lao PDR, through training and consultancy services. We also made special efforts last year to complete all the outstanding special cash grant projects from the past. Six such projects were carried out, including five study missions covering solar energy; management of waste, sewage, and waterworks; the 3Rs, eco-cities; and innovative modern agricultural technologies as well as an international environment forum.
On the international front, the APO continued to promote our activities. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the presence of observers from international organizations attending this GBM. Thank you to CIRDAP, the FAO, IAEA, PAPA, SEARCA, UNEP, and UNESCAP for taking an interest in the APO. No boundaries, geographic or political, should limit our collaboration, as long as it leads to improving productivity and a better quality of life for our people. Let us continue our discussions on the sidelines of this GBM.
At the same time, we appreciate the indications of interest in joining the APO by some Asian colleagues. For example, the cash grant projects funded by the GOJ enabled key figures within the Myanmar government and business community to network and obtain a deeper understanding of the benefits of APO programs. I was informed that Myanmar’s membership in the APO is being discussed, and one of the observers today is the Secretary-General of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry. I would also like to recognize the representative of the government of the Solomon Islands as well as the representative from the Singapore Productivity Association.
Through the Productivity Databook platform, the APO is now discussing a joint project with the OECD to review productivity enhancement policies in Asia. We are also exploring possible productivity measurement and capacity-building projects in Asiawith the UN’s Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
The study mission on Smart Grids to Hawaii could not have taken place without the cooperation of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, University of Hawaii, Maui Economic Development Board, and New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan.
At the request of the University of Hawaii, 12 MBA students on its extension campus in Hanoi were allowed to observe one day of a five-day APO agribusiness-related workshop. This project also attracted self-financed observers from the International Fund for Agriculture Development and Hawaii.
A forum on Mitigating Negative Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture was held in Indonesia with the cooperation of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, Center for International Forestry Research, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, and International Rice Research Institute. The forum produced the Bali Declaration on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in Agriculture in the Asia-Pacific.
A three-year MOU with Cornell University was signed to hold an Executive Course in Agribusiness Management and conduct case studies of SMEs in agribusiness. Through this MOU, the APO can now utilize the expertise of Cornell in analyzing and providing management advice. The pilot executive course started in July last year with the cooperation of the FTPI. In another two years, the APO will have developed enough agribusiness case studies to publish a compendium for member countries and other concerned institutions.
Part 2. Highlights of upcoming activities in 2015 and 2016
The lineup of projects for the 2015–2016 biennium was first endorsed at the WSM held in Fiji in 2013 and approved in principle by the GBM in 2014. The main thrusts of 2015–2016 programs are to improve public-sector productivity; equip SMEs to become both strong domestic forces and global players; strengthen research in areas such as gender, aging, and diversity; mitigate the impact of climate change; enhance agricultural productivity by reducing postharvest losses; improve food safety and security; and achieve more sustainable, inclusive development.
The 2015 Program Plan includes a new individual-country program called the National Follow-up Program. This is aimed at increasing the benefits of multilateral projects within member countries. For example, an NPO may request an expert from a multilateral project to act as a resource person for a national conference on the same topic to deepen the impact in that country. National Follow-up Programs could be conducted in the local language, addressing an issue faced by some countries.
Updates on special cash grants
The 2015 Program Plan also includes projects funded by special cash grants from the GOJ. Inspired by the success of the ASEAN LDC Program, the GOJ approved the next five-year phase as well as a new five-year grant for Promoting Public–Private-sector Partnerships in Enhancing Food Value Chains in Asian Countries. Three more special cash grant projects for 2015 from the GOJ have recently been approved by the Governing Body via circulation. Two of these three projects will be for Myanmar and Africa, while the third will be on labor-management relations.
I thank the GOJ, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, for its support and efforts in securing cash grants that have enabled many meaningful additional projects to be carried out. In addition, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has agreed to provide a substantial new two-year grant to the APO to carry out energy- and other GP-related projects.
There is even more good news. Apart from Japan, the Republic of Korea has also recently provided the APO with a cash grant for an additional project. In addition, the ROC has been regularly providing special cash grants. I acknowledge and thank both the ROC and ROK for their generosity.
Highlights of other 2015–2016 initiatives
Directors have previously asked for the APO to find new revenue streams to fund projects. The APO Certification System for standard productivity training courses to be implemented in collaboration with the NPOs of Malaysia and the Philippines, together with the self-e-learning courses, has the potential to generate such additional revenue.
The planning for the 10th EPIF will begin this year. The likely concept of the 10th EPIF is for visitors to navigate through an exhibition showing the eco-society of the future. With GPACs established in the ROC, Japan, and Sri Lanka, the APO aims to promote GPACs in other member countries to lead national GP movements.
I am also happy to announce a new initiative called Success Stories to showcase results achieved by demonstration companies as well as testimonials of participants in APO projects, both available on our website. It is not easy to quantify the impact of APO projects, but one of the more effective ways is through storytelling. I encourage member governments and NPOs to share more stories with the Secretariat.
As mentioned last year, we launched a pilot scheme for the periodic attachment of NPO staff to the Secretariat to strengthen the APO’s understanding of the development needs of individual countries and NPOs. The pilot scheme, however, did not receive many nominations from NPOs, and the Secretariat plans to refine the scheme based on more feedback.
The new APO roadmap is to be discussed by the Governing Body later. The roadmap will guide the APO to achieve Vision 2020 and adds two powerful new elements: policy analysis and a review mechanism. It also refocuses our efforts on specific capacity-building productivity programs that make a big difference to member countries.
The roadmap will have two implications for the APO. First, we need to strengthen the role of the APO as a policy adviser and think tank. We will also need to broaden our knowledge networks as well as intensify our intellectual property resources that take the form of publications, manuals, research papers, etc. Second, we need to improve the current approach to project planning by adopting a programmatic approach aimed at achieving specific results.
I am also contemplating changes in the organizational structure of the Secretariat to adapt to the new approaches and meet the challenges ahead. The Secretariat has been testing its own videoconferencing technology with the help of NPOs and will continue to roll out other IT initiatives to support the activities under the roadmap.
In exactly two weeks’ time, the APO will celebrate its 54th anniversary. I would like to reiterate that the recommendations of the roadmap, if adopted, have the potential to reinvent and transform the APO’s traditional roles. To paraphrase APO Director for Malaysia Tan Sri Azman Hashim, it will not be business as usual. With the support of member governments, the APO will be in a position that can help influence national productivity policies and enable it to make an impact in new areas that matter to member countries.
The roadmap is not an end in itself but a means to an end. It should not be static but reviewed and revised regularly to ensure its continued relevance. Because member countries are diverse, it is even more important for Directors to share your national policies to facilitate better planning. I look forward to hearing your policy directives in the plenary session tomorrow. Thank you for your continued support for efforts to ensure an enduring future for the APO. The best is yet to come.