Keeping in view the size of its economy, Pakistan needs as many as 50,000 professional accountants in the short run, said Executive Director Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) Dr Noel Tagoe.
Speaking to The Express Tribune in a recent interview, he said the global body of management accountants is making concerted efforts to increase its output in terms of qualified professionals, especially in emerging economies like Pakistan.
CIMA was established in the United Kingdom in 1919 and is currently the largest professional body of management accountants globally, with presence in as many as 176 countries. In order to be a CIMA member, one needs to have three years of practical experience in finance after clearing five exam levels namely certificate, operational, management, strategic and professional competence levels.
With over 200,000 members and part-qualified members globally, CIMA currently has a relatively small presence in Pakistan. The number of CIMA members and CIMA students – who are sometimes referred to as part-qualified CIMA professionals – is 200 and 3,000 respectively. About 600 new students from Pakistan have registered for CIMA since January.
CIMA officials in Pakistan expect more than 1,500 new admissions in 2013. In contrast, about 450 new students registered for the CIMA qualification in the first six months of 2012, up one-third on a year-on-year basis.
“We ought to be more aggressive in attracting talented people to get CIMA qualification in Pakistan,” Tagoe noted.
Saying that a shortage of professional accountants exists all over the world, he observed that the role of accountants is indispensible in a growing economy. “For your capital markets to grow, you need professionals who know how to do financial reporting. People will invest only when transparency is guaranteed.”
As an example, Tagoe refers to private and public-sector enterprises in South Africa – a country he visited before coming to Pakistan on his maiden trip. The South African government estimates that it needs 22,000 professional accountants in the private sector in the short run, he says. In public-sector organisations, he adds, the government estimates that 30,000 accountants are needed immediately.
“There are 300,000 people working in finance within the public sector in South Africa. But only 1,000 of them are qualified accountants. No wonder they have huge problems within their public sector,” he said. “If only 10% people working in finance within the South African public sector were professional accountants, many of their problems would simply go away.”
About the perception that CIMA professionals work mainly in the manufacturing sector, Tagoe says it was true in the past because the international body was initially set up as the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants almost 100 years ago. But the trend has changed recently because a number of multinational companies working in a range of sectors now prefer to hire CIMA professionals in their finance departments.
“CIMA members are now working in companies such as Shell, Nestle, American Express and KPMG. In fact, CIMA is the preferred finance qualification for Shell and Nestle globally,” he said.
Saying that a management accountant’s job is distinctly different from that of chartered or cost accountants, Tagoe noted that the CIMA qualification enables accounting professionals to do financial reporting as well as strategy formulation – functions typically associated with ACCA and MBA qualifications.
“You can say that CIMA is a combination of accounting and MBA qualifications,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2013.
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