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58th Governing Body Meeting: Annual Report [19–21 April 2016, Jakarta, Indonesia]

Annual Report of the Secretary-General
by Mari Amano
APO Secretary-General

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great pleasure to welcome APO Directors, Advisers, and Observers to the 58th session of the APO Governing Body (GBM) in Jakarta. I extend my deepest gratitude to the Government of Indonesia and the Directorate of Productivity and Entrepreneurship, Directorate General of Training and Productivity, Ministry of Manpower, for hosting this year’s meeting.

This year marks 55 years since the APO was founded in a very different world from today. The single greatest challenge still facing every member economy, regardless of its stage of economic development, is to raise the productivity of its workers. The same challenge, in a different world, continues. Productivity has become more important, not less. We know that long-term economic development can only be sustained through higher productivity, and it remains fundamental to the prosperity of all member countries.

Individual member countries now face different, although not necessarily totally new, productivity challenges. An example is the issue of agricultural productivity in many developing APO economies. Even though remarkable progress has been made, value addition to agrifood products stays low, with one-third lost due to inappropriate postharvest handling and consumption. Proper postharvest handling and value addition can minimize food losses, increase product diversification, and enhance incomes, as well as create new job opportunities in rural areas.

What has the APO done to address this issue? Last year, we organized multicountry projects that promoted value addition and strengthened postharvest handling of agrifood products in member countries that have experience in tackling these issues, for example, the ROC, Japan, and ROK. We introduced management tools and technologies including those resulting from the Green Revolution which helped many developing Asian countries to become food secure and avoid famines. When necessary, we brought in experts with advanced knowledge from outside the region and conducted study missions to nonmember countries for exposure to new ideas and knowledge. We pooled the information and then created opportunities and platforms for sharing and learning through mutual cooperation. This is the APO’s raison d’être.

Multicountry projects are a unique facet of APO programs and around 80 were organized last year. They not only allow the APO to share knowledge among its membership but also create favorable publicity for our activities in the host country. For example, the participants in the Workshop on Material Flow Cost Accounting held in Jakarta last August signed a declaration expressing their commitment to establishing national MFCA forums. That event was witnessed by senior officials from the Indonesian government, UNIDO, and the Embassy of Japan.

Multicountry projects address one stage of knowledge sharing among member countries. Another equally important stage is to ensure that the knowledge is disseminated effectively within each. Our NPOs play a critical role in multiplying APO efforts locally. Last year, bilateral networking and cooperation between NPOs reached unprecedented levels, with 12 such in-country projects conducted. This helped accelerate the sharing of meaningful productivity initiatives among member countries.

NPOs may also tap the Development of NPOs Program and Technical Expert Services Program. In 2015, 84 experts were deployed to member countries under the DON and TES programs. The Secretariat also improved the flexibility and speed of the TES application procedure.

Under the successful Center of Excellence Program launched in 2010, three of our NPOs have been designated COE. The most recent was the Development Academy of the Philippines as the COE on Public-sector Productivity. This will be followed through with action plans under the APO’s Public-sector Productivity Framework. One of the key projects is the region’s first International Conference on Public-sector Productivity to be held in Malaysia targeting more than 400 participants, both overseas and local. This conference has also attracted attention from Latin America.

The DAP is the third NPO to be designated a COE, after the establishment of SPRING Singapore as the COE on Business Excellence and the China Productivity Center as the COE on Green Productivity. It is now time to review the COE Program and devise new strategies to maximize its potential. For example, a future COE may focus on building competencies for enterprises in the service sector or enterprises with activities straddling both services and manufacturing. The APO currently has programs to enhance service productivity using tried and tested methods adapted from manufacturing. More can still be done to address the needs of this growing segment, particularly with many of our member economies advancing rapidly.

Another idea could be to facilitate and equip existing COE to conduct regular APO-certified training courses to increase the pool of practice-oriented professionals in key productivity fields. This would dramatically increase the number of training places for core productivity skills and could serve as a future revenue stream for the COE as well as the APO.

The APO has been successfully offering videoconference-based e-learning courses since 2006. Last year marked the first time that these courses were conducted using our new in-house videoconference facilities. A total of five VC-based e-learning courses were offered in 2015. One on nonchemical pest management involved an ongoing collaboration with the IAEA’s joint FAO/IAEA Division which provided an expert on nuclear techniques in food and agriculture and its videoconference facility at no cost to us.

Earlier this year, the APO signed a three-year MOU with the Center on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific to support collaborative research and capacity-building activities. In 2016, four APO projects will be implemented under the APO-CIRDAP collaboration. CIRDAP will support selected projects in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It is clear that global partnerships with major international organizations, research institutions, and universities create mutual benefits for the APO and its partners, and we will continue to pursue more tie-ups.

The APO’s training and research partnership with Cornell University has entered its third year. We expect to continue developing more agribusiness leaders and writing case studies for future courses as a tangible result of this partnership. We have also been working with the Development Centre of the OECD to publish a productivity outlook report analyzing productivity growth trends in selected APO economies and relevant productivity enhancement policies. Publication is planned for later this year. Another collaboration with the OECD was a continuation of the pilot study on basic agricultural policies and productivity in selected member countries using producer support estimates.

The APO also worked with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs in its productivity measurement work for the Bhutanese government. As the APO moves into providing policy advice/review and exploring emerging topics, we need to develop more international relationships to identify partners and acquire new know-how.

The UNDESA is not the only UN agency that the APO has worked with. In the area of Green Productivity, the APO collaborated with UNIDO on the MFCA workshop mentioned earlier.

Related to the strategic direction of GP, Thailand will be the host country for the EPIF this year, and Vietnam has been confirmed as the host for 2017. I urge all member countries to give their full support to both by participating in the fairs and associated international conferences.

The last WSM held in Singapore discussed the expansion of the Digital Learning Program comprising VC-based and self-learning e-courses. The convergence of technology, social media, and content has allowed us to embark on the next phase of self-learning e-courses, which will introduce highly interactive contents that will encourage learning anywhere, anytime, and with any digital device. We will be pilot-testing these interactive courses soon. With attractive content and easy access, we aim to transform the DLP into a world-class learning platform reaching a global audience. Depending on demand and with the cooperation of member countries, we also intend to start translating these courses into local languages as well as other global languages such as Spanish.

On behalf of the APO, I thank the Governments of the ROC, Japan, and the ROK for providing generous cash grants enabling us to implement additional projects involving both member and nonmember countries. The cash grant from the ROC enables the APO to fund the dispatch of additional experts for projects. A new cash grant from the ROK allowed us to conduct a Workshop on Sustainable Community Development to share the experience stemming from the Saemaul Undong or New Village Movement.

With cash grants from the Government of Japan, the APO was able to organize projects on labor-management relations and SME innovation in Japan for member countries and Myanmar, respectively. The initial two-year Energy Efficiency Program aimed at the capacity development in energy efficiency and conservation in the five member countries Bangladesh, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka successfully took off last August.

The GOJ also provided cash grants for the agriculture sector. A new five-year Special Program for Capacity Building in the Food Industry in ASEAN Least Developed Countries began last year. This was an extension of a similar five-year program that concluded the year before. The GOJ provided a new three-year grant for the Special Program for Promoting Public-private Partnerships in Enhancing Food Value Chains in Asian Countries from 2015.

The APO continued to be active in Africa through the generosity of the GOJ. Twenty-seven productivity professionals and government officials from eight African countries attended the Training Course on Industrial Human Resources Development for Africa held in South Africa last June. We plan to continue follow-up activities on that continent with the support of the GOJ.

APO Directors have been encouraging us to expand our activities. To do more, we need more resources. Not all these resources need to be from membership contributions. Instead, we can tap resources through more international cooperation, more special cash grant projects, and alternative revenue streams. We will also be focusing on activities that leverage the strengths and core competencies of the APO, including our NPOs. These activities may comprise study missions, certified training courses, and customized productivity consultancy services.

Toward the end of 2015, the APO signed an MOU with Colombia. We have since been discussing a broad range of cooperative activities including developing customized productivity courses, participation in selected APO training courses, offering Colombian institutions productivity measurement knowledge, participation in self-learning e-courses, etc. Such collaborations allow the APO to expand its activities to nonmember countries by offering consultancy services that also generate additional revenue. We will learn from the capacity-building experience with Colombia to shape future cooperation, in particular in Latin America.

The Annual Report contains the details of our 2015 achievements. I am proud that the APO successfully completed its planned projects for 2015 with the cooperation and support of member countries. The intensity of activities in the past two years is now comparable to the years before the drastic cost-reduction measures to cut staff expenses starting from 2010. Even though these measures were partially lifted in 2014, I am pleased to report that staff expenses are still about 20% lower compared with pre-2010 levels. In other words, we have become much more productive and cost-effective. We are also in a better position to attract and retain talented staff, which will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the organization.

Secretariat staff have a major role to play in our current and future success. Program Officers must constantly innovate to find new methods of working with participants and experts. This year, we will be piloting the use of webinars to prepare participants before they meet to attend multicountry projects. Secretariat staff also play an important role in promoting and sharing the APO’s unique knowledge, experience, and expertise. They discussed strategies for the sustainable development of LDCs at a UNESCAP meeting in Cambodia, spoke on innovation and productivity in the organic farming sector at a regional conference held in the ROK, and gave presentations and moderated discussions on the concept of GP at the annual UNCRD Forum on 3R Solutions held in Maldives. Staff also spoke on GP at both Yokohama National University and the International Forum for Sustainable Asia and the Pacific.

Such initiatives by the Secretariat definitely help to improve the visibility of the APO within the international community. With the usual strong cooperation of member countries, APO activities were covered by the media about 500 times last year. The APO News, both print and e-mail versions, was regularly distributed to more than 8,000 recipients around the world. The APO Facebook page acted as an important tool not just to disseminate information about our activities but also to interact directly with individual users. The number of Facebook “likes” increased by almost 50% in 2015.

As reported at last year’s GBM, success stories to illustrate the real-life experiences of beneficiaries of APO programs are now available on the APO website. I hope that these success stories and testimonials from participants will continue to inspire and encourage more individuals and enterprises to work with the APO and NPOs on productivity initiatives. I look forward to hearing more of these successes and sharing them with all stakeholders.

To expand the APO membership, we have been holding discussions with the governments of Myanmar, the Solomon Islands, and Turkey. The Secretariat has been advising Turkey in particular on APO accession procedures. With the encouragement of APO Directors, I plan to build stronger relations with Central Asian countries.

The proposed budget for the 2017–2018 biennium (Doc. No. 5) is submitted for the GBM’s approval. The prioritization of projects was guided by a set of criteria which includes directives from previous GBMs, member country surveys, and outputs of APO workshops and research. All projects were systematically designed to achieve our goals using the new program approach endorsed by the last WSM. Adopting this approach demonstrates the impact, achievements, and contributions of each program to the strategic directions instead of only those of a single project. One new program is providing policy analysis and advice to member countries in the area of productivity enhancement.

The previous GBM held in Bangkok did not give unanimous approval to the proposed Roadmap to Achieve the APO Vision 2020. Since that GBM, the roadmap has undergone three revisions. I stress that the roadmap was developed through a series of discussions involving member countries and external experts spanning a period of almost three years. I hope that this GBM will discuss and approve Revision 5 (Ref. Paper 3).

Before concluding, I would like once again to thank our gracious host, the Government of Indonesia, for its wonderful hospitality. I would also like to thank the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for confirming that it will be hosting the next GBM in 2017.

Our predecessors often described the productivity movement as a marathon without a finish line. In other words, we should pursue productivity relentlessly, regardless of economic conditions or turmoil in financial markets. This sense of continual commitment to excellence and focused effort will foster a strong productivity culture and ensure that economic growth remains sustainable in the longer term. It has been an eventful two and a half years serving member countries as Secretary-General. I would like to thank you all for continuing support for the APO and its activities.

Thank you.

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