Malaysia contributes to developing International Accounting Standards

Kuala Lumpur, 14 October 1996

Sir Bryan Carsberg, Secretary General of the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC), visited the Securities Commission last Friday and delivered a public lecture on the topic "Global Accounting Standards: A Goal Within Reach". The lecture was attended by members of the accounting profession, representatives of public companies, senior executives of the stock and futures exchanges, government agencies and academia.

In his opening remarks, Sir Bryan paid tribute to Malaysia in the work of establishing international accounting standards. " Malaysia is a distinguished participant in the business of the IASC. Malaysia took up a seat on our board at the last changeover and is making a helpful and constructive contribution to the affairs of the Committee at this very important time, when we have such important opportunities."

Touching on the proposed formation of the Malaysian Accounting Standards Board, he indicated he has followed the developments with great interest, particularly the indication of the need for standards to have a wider, public ownership beyond the narrower interest of the accounting profession "This certainly accords with the world-wide trend in standards setting. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is organized like that in the United States. The same happened in the United Kingdom. I fully understand that some parts of the profession here are concerned about the changes and their role in it. I would myself have confidence that those concerns should not be overstated. The worldwide experience in these matters indicate that professional bodies continue to make a crucial contribution to the work of standards setting. In the UK, the profession has felt very comfortable with the new arrangements and certainly leaders in the accounting profession are the key people in the standards setting process".

Noting that the world economy has grown increasingly interconnected, and the volume of world trade and investments has grown apace, the need to move towards a uniform set of accounting standards has become more persuasive and compelling. Sir Bryan averred that investors all over the world require similar sorts of information to make prudent investment decisions, and companies in their capital raising efforts are increasingly tapping markets where they can access capital with the most advantageous terms.

"This, of course, creates greater interest in accounting harmonization. To enjoy the competition between capital markets to the fullest extent, companies want to be able to do so with the minimum amount of friction. If they have to produce a new set of accounts according to the accounting standards of each country they raise capital in, their ability to enjoy these benefits would be greatly inhibited. Also, a wise company would want to have a uniform managerial accounting system throughout its worldwide organization and to be able to report externally in a manner congruent with its internal indications. These two considerations can be only be achieved if a company uses one system of reporting externally"

Sir Bryan also indicated that international harmonization is just as important for the reputation of the accounting profession. As a result of having to use different accounting standards, reported profits can vary depending on the system of accounting rules used. Mentioning a number of specific cases, and the causes of some of these differences, he noted that while theses differences may be understandable to the profession , the effect for the rest of the world would be extremely confusing.

Turning to the work of the IASC, and its role in achieving a convergence in accounting standards, he said: "Our objective is to develop a uniform set of accounting rules for use throughout the world, so that users know if they interpret a set of accounts in one way in a country, they can go to another country and interpret them in the same way".

As an interim step to this end, the IASC has worked toward getting its standards accepted by major stock exchanges of the world for the purposes of listing. This has been substantially achieved with the exception of the United States, Canada and Japan. To achieve even greater acceptance, the IASC and the International Organization of Securities Commissions agreed to work together to produce a core set of accounting standards covering some 30 key areas of accounting standards by March 1998. In many of these area, standards already exist. However, some need revision, and there has also been a requirement for new standards. In its work program, the Committee has been encouraged and urged on by securities regulators who have indicated their willingness to assist in the national due process leading to the adoption of these standards.

Commenting on the timeliness of the lecture, and the important role of the accounting profession in the setting and interpreting standards, in his introductory remarks, Securities Commission Chairman, Dato’ Dr. Munir Majid said: "In the context of financial reporting, I see the role of the accountant in his/her specialist capacity in assisting boards of directors by preparing financial statements and by providing expert knowledge on accounting matters which can be relied on by preparers in discharging their reporting responsibilities; and auditing financial statements, in his/her role as independent auditor."

"While the duty of the auditor is to report on the financial statements prepared by the directors, the role of the accountancy profession in a collective sense is to contribute to and support the establishment of a consistent framework within which financial reporting and auditing can take place and thereby provide users with information that is useful and comparable; and through the professional accountancy bodies, to assist and monitor the members of the profession in the discharge of their role, to ensure that the highest standards are maintained in so doing."

Sir Bryan Carsberg was an Academic Fellow and Assistant Director of Research and Technical Activities at the FASB from 1978 to 1982. While he was Director of Research for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, he was appointed as an observer-member of the UK Accounting Standards Committee. He was a founder member the UK Accounting Standards Board and served as Vice-Chairman from 1990 to 1994.

The IASC was formed in 1973 as a result of a resolution adopted at the World Congress of Accountants held the previous year. It shares a common membership with the International Federation of Accountants, being some 120 professional accounting bodies in 87 countries. The Board of the IASC comprises representatives from 16 countries. There are currently provisions for 4 co-opted members, and three observer institutions attend.


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