Speech By Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister In Prime Minister's Office And Second Minister For Finance And Transport At The Inaugural Singapore Accountancy Convention02 Nov 2010
Dr Ernest Kan
President, Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore,
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Good Morning. I am pleased to join you here at the inaugural Singapore Accountancy Convention.
2. The theme of this Convention – “A Profession on the Move” captures the dynamism and vibrancy of the accounting profession and also acknowledges the reality of an increasingly globalised world. Accounting professionals play a vital role in economies as their work gives investors and the public the confidence that a company's financial reports and corporate disclosures are reliable, and truthfully prepared. If there is one thing that the recent financial crisis has taught us, it is that investor confidence is a fragile construct and that once lost, would have an overwhelmingly adverse effect on companies and economies.
3. Singapore’s reputation as a trusted international financial and business centre is built on the foundation of a robust financial reporting framework and internationally recognised accounting and auditing standards. We have built on this reputation assiduously over the years. Today, the favourable ranking enjoyed by Singapore in almost every international benchmarking on ease of doing business or competitiveness of our economy reflects this hard-earned reputation. But we cannot be complacent. To benefit from the huge growth opportunities in Asia and beyond, we need to continue to strengthen our reputation as a trusted financial and business centre. Our accounting profession, in particular, plays a pivotal role in this effort to help Singapore further sharpen our competitive edge.
4. The Singapore accountancy sector is on the cusp of a major change. As you are aware, the Pro-Tem Singapore Accountancy Council (SAC) has started work to implement the recommendations of the Committee to Develop the Accountancy Sector (CDAS). The aim is to transform Singapore into a leading global accountancy hub for the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. This is a bold vision and one that can only be achieved through the concerted effort of all stakeholders, namely, businesses, the government, professional accounting bodies and you, the accounting professionals.
Talent Development Through Continuing Education and Training
5. A deep talent pool is critical to the continued success of Singapore as an international financial centre, and the development of Singapore into a leading global accountancy hub for this region. We have to be very deliberate in our effort to develop such a talent pool. Hence the recommendation by CDAS to develop a globally-recognised, Singapore-branded post-university professional accountancy qualification.
6. With this post-university professional accountancy qualification, the bar for qualifying to be a Singapore certified public accountant will be on par with those set by top-tier accountancy bodies worldwide. Aspiring accountancy professionals here and in the region will have an avenue to develop their accountancy careers by obtaining credentials that are globally recognised. The objective is to develop accounting professionals who are not just deep problem solvers in the core area of accountancy. We also want our accountancy professionals to be equipped with the skills to interact with other specialists and understand technical issues from a wide range of disciplines and functional areas. They should also possess the required management and leadership skills to excel in this highly globalised world.
7. We also want to enlarge the talent pool by allowing graduates from non-accountancy backgrounds to enter the profession through a conversion scheme. This will add diversity and raise the quality of the talent pool. A more liberal admission regime would also allow us to attract talent from Asia and around the world to Singapore. The congregation of accounting talent in Singapore will provide employers with a ready pool of talent to help them tap on business opportunities in the region.
Talent Development for Identified Niches
8. Besides developing accounting talent, there is also a need to meet the increasing demand for accounting professionals with specialised skills, especially since many global accountancy firms are using Singapore as the regional hub for their Asia-Pacific operations and centres of excellence for their specialised services. There is much potential for Singapore to grow further as a hub for accountancy services to facilitate the regionalisation of accounting practices. There is also considerable scope to support the development of specialisation pathways in internal audit, risk management, business valuation and international tax. A good example would be the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals (SIATP). Although it was only launched less than six months ago, it has since received more than 900 applications, thus attesting to the strong market demand for tax professionals with specialised skills.
Training on International Financial Reporting Standards
9. In addition to the initiatives currently undertaken by the Pro-Tem SAC, other entities are also helping to elevate the standard and the quality of accounting professionals in Singapore. I am happy to note that the Singapore Accounting Standards Council (ASC), in partnership with the ICPAS, will be organising a “Train the Trainer” Workshop on the International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) for SMEs in Singapore, from 24 to 26 January next year.
10. The IFRS for SMEs is the International Accounting Standard Board’s response to the demand from both developed and emerging economies for a rigorous and common set of accounting standards that is simpler than full IFRSs for smaller and medium-sized businesses. Hence in recognition of the growing adoption of the IFRS for SMEs in other jurisdictions and the proposed adoption of the Singapore Financial Reporting Standards (SFRS) for Small Entities, the ASC is inviting the IASB to conduct this workshop in Singapore. It will help equip trainers to reach out to the accounting professionals in Singapore and the region. This is part of the ASC’s initiatives to help, not only the local accounting professionals, but also the accounting professionals in this region to build their professional competency to be on par with their counterparts in the leading jurisdictions.
Accounting Profession’s Role in Upholding Singapore’s Reputation
11. While all the initiatives I have outlined would have the effect of equipping the accounting professional with the requisite technical knowledge, this in itself is not sufficient. More than just professional competence, an accounting professional also has to embody the qualities of integrity, objectivity, and exhibit behavior consistent with the good reputation of the profession.
12. The presence of these qualities is what differentiates the accounting profession, as accountants have a duty to serve the public interest. Through their oversight against unethical and financially unsound practices, accounting professionals help to maintain the well-being of the organisations they serve and safeguard the investors’ confidence in the business community.
13.   ; The developments in the accountancy sector support the Government’s plans for Singapore’s economic growth. At this stage of our economic development, we must focus on productivity-driven growth, through shifting towards higher-value added activities and upgrading the skills of our workforce. With Asia expected to play a leading role in the global economy, Singapore is well-placed to be a Global-Asia Hub, a strategic base from which global businesses manage and integrate their pan-Asian operations. To ensure that Singapore maintain its competitive edge, the accounting profession must constantly innovate, build new capabilities, and raise its competencies and effectiveness.
14. I am heartened by the good turnout at the Singapore Accountancy Convention today. It speaks of your desire to enhance your skills and professional knowledge, to pursue professional development, and be updated on the sector’s rapid changes. Only by leveraging on skills, innovation and productivity can Singapore achieve its goal of having a highly skilled people and an innovative economy to be a distinctive global city.
15. I wish you a fruitful session ahead. Thank you.