The Asian Productivity Organisation (APO) headquartered in Tokyo was established in 1961 as a regional intergovernmental organisation. Sri Lanka joined the APO in 1966 and the Management Development and Productivity Centre (which later became the National Institute of Business Management [NIBM] was the focal point. The APO was formed to assist Asian economies to improve productivity, with a view to raising their living standards, as it was felt that the US and Europe were able to afford their citizens a good quality of life because they were productive nations. Sri Lanka’s productivity movement has had its ups and downs, and unlike countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Indonesia where the private sector took the lead role, the situation in Sri Lanka was different with no such significant private sector, (non governmental) initiative. In countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand the Government agencies took the lead and had very comprehensive and high intensity programmes. In fact in Singapore and Malaysia the success was attributed to the leadership given to the programmes by Hon Lee Kuan Yue and Hon Mahathir Mohamed. In Sri Lanka it was the QCASL and the SLAAQP that promoted Japanese concepts such as Quality Circles, Kaizen etc. While Government agencies too contributed to the efforts the activities of such voluntary organisations had more impact.
International connections with other bodies promoting Quality were established by the QCASL and the SLAAQP.
When the APO liaison office was under the NIBM and the APO realised that a separate unit was required in Sri Lanka with more dedication to the subject of productivity, the National Productivity Secretariat (NPS) was established in 1996 under the Ministry of Industrial Development. Later the subject was brought under the Ministry of Labour, and more recently a separate Ministry for the subject was created. With USAID assistance led by Dr Howard Rosen (a former Presidential economic advisor from the US) a Productivity Policy was prepared in two parts (private sector, and public sector) in 2002, and presented to the Government. So far very little has come out of this exercise. The NPS has worked mainly to introduce productivity concepts and practices to the public sector, and has achieved very useful results. However much more needs to be done to make Sri Lanka more productive, particularly in the SME sector which cannot afford to send their staff for seminars nor engage consultants.
The subject of Quality and Standardisation always remained under the purview of the Sri Lanka Standards Institute, and many educational programmes have been launched. In spite of these efforts standardisation and quality consciousness still has many milestones to reach.
The SLAAQP therefore believes that it has an important role to play in national economic development. It’s membership is passionate about the subjects, and have come forward voluntarily to promote Quality and Productivity in Sri Lanka.