Association of Accounting Technicians of Sri Lanka (AAT) President J.M.U.B. Jayasekera this week requested the government to stimulate economic growth by facilitating the training of 100,000 accountants.
Speaking at the AAT Conference 2017 this Monday in Colombo, Jayasekera told President Maithripala Sirisena that increasing the number of accountants in a
country increases economic growth. “Australia has 23 million people, and 157,330 are accountants.
That’s one accountant for every 147 individuals. That’s why their per capita income is US$56,290. In the US, with a population of 314 million, there are 347,000 accountants, so there’s one accountant per 900 heads, that’s why their per capita income is high,” he said.
Basing his argument on a study which compares the number of accountants and per capita income in countries, he said that Sri Lanka has low income due to the low number of accountants in the country.
“Even though Australia and Sri Lanka have a similar population level, Sri Lanka has just 10,000 accountants compared to their 157,330. That’s why our income is US$3,826. Accountants increase good governance, transparency and strengthen firms. That is why in the next 2-3 years, just like Australia, Sri Lanka will require at least 100,000 accountants to develop the economy,” Jayasekara said.
However, National Policies and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva, who graced the event as the guest of honour did not fully agree with the argument brought forward by Jayasekara.
“I have a problem. What is the correlation between accountants and economic growth? I was reminded of a story we were told in graduate school,” Dr. de Silva said.
He explained how a US national survey had found that when the number of churches increased in a state, so did the number of bars.
“So whether it is the priest after the duties of God stopped by the bar to have a pint or two, I don’t know. So honestly I’m not very convinced of your argument,” he said.
Dr. de Silva said he is sceptical of the correlation and causality of accountants driving growth.
“So correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causality, and causality can be either way. It could be the case where the countries are rich and they can afford more accountants,” he said. He also added that although qualified accountants in Sri Lanka make approximately six times the average per capita income which shows the success of privatized higher education which the country is seeking to further promote, accountants are also paid to ensure that their clients pay as little tax as possible, which is at odds with the Sri Lanka’s need for increased tax revenue and fiscal performance.(CW)
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