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Adopting technology, game-changer to accounting profession: Jagath Perera

2018-02-12 10:12:46
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By Zahara Zuhair

There is a need to bring in new aspects like automated processes, advanced practice management tools and forensic in audit to enhance audit quality as auditors are facing new challenges in performing audits, said Jagath Perera who was inducted as the 24th President of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka), last week.


“The role of an accountant is changing from the traditional activities like accounting expertise, budgeting and forecasting and financial reporting towards the activities like risk management, critical thinking and cross-functional collaboration,” he said.


He said that “adopting technology” will be the game changer to accountancy profession too as technologyis experiencing the fourth industrial revolution, disruptive technology together with digitisation, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality.


“You may be aware that telephone has taken 75 years to reach out to 50 million users. Radio has taken 38 years where as televisiononly 13 years and Facebook only 3.5 years reach out to 50 million users. In the case of the Angry Bird Space app, it took only 35 days to reach out 50 million users. If we ignore technology it will become an enemy. If we manage IT, we will be successful in this game,” he said.


“The current generation, the digital natives, we are taking them through a system of education that existed in the 19th century. The digital native will wonder why we ask them to take notes at the lecture hall when they can acquire the same knowledge much easily and comprehensively from the web. Reality is, while at the lecture hall they surf on the mobile phone, view the content on the screen and question the lecturer. Any education provider who is not taking a note of this surely will be out of business,” he added.


He also said that it is important to train all their lecturers, and equip them to face their digital natives.


Heinvited all their members who are in Sri Lanka and around the globe to rally round the profession to walk towards the transforming future chartered accountants to meet the demands of digital world.


Meanwhile, heproposed to bring the concept of limited liability partnerships and multi disciplinary partnership laws in Sri Lanka for the profession to grow in order to sustain the professional practice in Sri Lanka.


He said that today they are working with thePartnership Act of 1890.


He also said that their act of incorporation is almost 60 years old. He said that there are so many progressive changes that have taken place within the professional practices.


“It is high time for us to revisit the legal framework of the profession to update it,” he said.


He further said, “All of us doaccept that our system of education in Sri Lanka has killed the innovation, creativity and critical thinking of our children. When we take the same intake into CA profession as A/L students, it is not easy to inculcate entrepreneurship skills.”


Local and foreign investments to drive export sector: PM

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that in order to double the exports, it was important to attract both local and foreign investments. As such the private sector has to take the lead as foreign investors would follow up looking at them.


“Exporting non-tradable goods are no benefit for Sri Lanka. We have to expand the tradable sector. Last year we had the highest export which is US$15 billion. Now for me that is not enough. We need to double it, if we really want to make ourselves comfortable,” he said, talking at the Induction ceremony of Jagath Perera as the 24th President of the Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CASL).


“But how do we double the exports? For that we need investments. Last year our investment came to US$1.5 billion. They said that it is the highest in a single year, but that is not sufficient for me. I told them our target should be US$3 billion and when we come close to US$3 billion, we have to make it US$5 billion. We have to get investments, then we can go ahead, I’m not talking only about foreign investment, but also local investments,” he said.


He said that local enterprises and entrepreneurs should come forward and start new ventures and enterprises, while noting that locals are the fastest investment the country can get. He said that Sri Lanka is no longer a low wage economy though it’s still practicing manufacturing and agriculture sectors which are more familiar to low wage economy.


“Some of the manufacturing and agriculture have to move on, we have to go up the value chain,” he said.


He also said that Sri Lanka should look at semi-automation within next 10 years as countries such as China have already set up factories that are run by the robots.


Talking about the tourism sector, which is one of the largest service sectors, he said that Sri Lanka needs more non-room activities.
“No longer people are coming to stay in hotels, they pay more for non-rooms activities, Unfortunately, we haven’t got sufficient activities, restaurants or entertainment. We are based on tourism that hotel will supply all additional services, it’s not so enough,” he said.


When it comes to logistics, he said that Hambantota Port is no longer an empty harbour which has now become a working harbour as it was leased to a Chinese firm last year.


He noted that Sri Lanka will have an additional US$600 million investment in next couple of years through the projects that are in pipeline such as the oil refinery and the liquid natural gas (LNG) plants that will further strengthen the foundation for an industrial zone in the South.


Meanwhile, he said that in order to make Sri Lanka an off-shore business hub, as Colombo International Financial Zone (IFZ) will be a part of it which will be on stream by 2020, he said that currently they are looking at the legislation side of it.


He said National Policies and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva is looking at a proposal to place English law by this year to govern it as an offshore financial centre.


This is the first time Sri Lanka is planning to govern a man made city through a separate legal framework based on English law.


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