Ensuring Sustainable Growth in the 21st Century through Workforce Development

Singapore, 12 August 2008
  • Speech by Ambassador Juan Carlos Capuñay, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
Welcome to Singapore and to the APEC Secretariat. I would like to express my appreciation to the organizers, the Australian Department of Education, Employment and Work Place Relations and the U.S. Department of Labor for organizing this symposium. This is an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas on innovative public-private partnerships (PPPs), to address workforce challenges and to share good PPP practices in implementing labor market and welfare policies and programs.
It has been said that public/private partnerships are essential to exploiting economic opportunities effectively in today's changing environment. They are an important tool that can be used to make private sector-led growth "pro-poor growth," that is - growth that is inclusive and, therefore, sustainable. Cooperation between public and private sectors is an area where the optimal use of public and private sector resources can create added value for a society as a whole."
I am sure that most of you know the high degree of importance that APEC places on the role of the private sector in attaining APEC's Bogor Goals. And Peru, as APEC 2008 host continues to encourage greater public-private sector partnerships as well as sustained efforts at addressing the social dimension of globalization so that the benefits of economic growth are felt and shared by all.
President Garcia of Peru confirmed the significance of this issue by stating that "in addition to pursuing the ongoing trade agenda, Peru will highlight the importance of public-private sector partnerships, stronger relationships with international financial institutions and increased cooperation with international organizations and civil society to achieve sustainable development. The region requires an integrated approach, where government policies, technical and financial capacity, and private enterprise join in a concerted effort."
Given President Garcia's comments this symposium is timely. Developing effective public-private sector partnerships, focusing on strategies for meeting skills and labor shortages and the use of PPP in delivery of employment services and welfare programs respond to APECs and Peru's priorities this year.
While PPP is not new it continues to be an effective mechanism in the provision of much-needed services and goods. By pulling together public and private sector expertise, resources and know-how, efficiency and productivity are increased.
Within APEC we see this collaboration in areas of trade facilitation, infrastructure development, anti-corruption, security in trade, bond market development, education, reducing the digital divide, disaster prevention and emergency preparedness, tourism, agricultural biotechnology, to name a few. It is encouraging that LSPN is exploring PPPs to meet the challenges in the labor market as there is much to be gained from these partnerships.
Earlier this year I spoke at an Emergency Preparedness meeting, and what was passed on to them is just as relevant to you today as you begin your work on PPPs in the workforce.
First, solutions are better found through cooperation. A multilateral approach widens the net for cooperation and quick resolution to regional challenges.
Second, APEC's guiding principles have created a forum that encourages, not only participation from the private sector, but the development of lasting public-private partnerships.
And third, building strong relationships with the private sector and regional bodies will help to prepare the people of the Asia-Pacific region to better deal with unforeseen events and mitigate their impacts to the economy.
As we continue to work towards the Bogor Goals of free and open markets, we should not lose sight of an important component of liberalized markets - and that is a skilled and adequate workforce.
Today's world calls for a highly skilled labor force and in numbers that can respond to the demands of the global economy. Some APEC member economies already face skills and manpower shortages in certain essential and crucial occupations that will affect the production and delivery of goods and services and set back progress in APEC's trade agenda.
The divide between skills and knowledge taught in the schools and the skills and know-how demanded by industries is an issue which the HRDWG continues to address. It is through the development of a strategic private-public partnership among education, labor, industry and government which can effectively address this disconnect.
Industry must do its part by identifying the skills they require from the labor force. Labor must continue to retrain and upgrade skills. Academic and skills training institutions will need to respond to the call for skills demanded by new or emerging businesses. And governments must put in place policy reforms, infrastructure, and incentives to support the needs of industry so as to provide full employment.
It has become obvious that workforce development, education, training and economic development are inextricably linked. The APEC region is witness to new technologies, new products and new services. This necessitates partnerships between the private sector and governments to create an environment that would allow new businesses to adapt to rapid changes and increased competition. But we must at the same time not lose sight of the obligation to provide workers' welfare programs.
We must continue to undertake initiatives on qualifications standards across the region as a measure to address skills and labor shortages with the various professional regulatory organizations assisting governments in this direction.
Let me share with you what Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General said: "In today's world, the private sector is the dominant engine of growth - the principal creator of value and managerial resources. If the private sector does not deliver economic growth and economic opportunity - equitable and sustainable - around the world, then peace will remain fragile and social justice a distant dream."
"Public/private partnerships, particularly those that focus on innovative ways to help public and private interest meet, carry the promise of a development that is inclusive and sustainable at the same time. It is in such a development that the best business opportunities are to be found."
I am hopeful that at the conclusion of this seminar you will have gone some way to meeting the objectives of coming up with effective and innovative PPP strategies for meeting skills and labor shortages and in the delivery of employment services and welfare programs.