Chinese philosopher Confucius had once said, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ As I take this first step as 58th President of the second largest accountancy body of the world, I wish to thank all those who have supported and guided me to reach this position today. I thank the members of both 20th as well as 21st Council for reposing trust and confidence in me by electing me as the Vice-President and then as the President of the ICAI during 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively. Not to forget, I would like to thank all the members of my professional fraternity for electing me to the Central council five times consecutively. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate CA. G. Ramaswamy, a pragmaticprofessional and visionary, for getting elected as the Vice- President of the ICAI. Many congratulations to the new Council members as well, who, I am sure, will add to the vitality and vigour of the Institute and the profession.
The Institute today boasts of a very strong intellectual heritage and tradition of trust that our nation has in it, and it is my honour to be a part of this heritage and tradition. I understand the highest office, i.e.,the President’s office, of the Institute brings along with itself many a duty and responsibility that I can only sincerely promise to do justice to at this stage.
As I begin my journey as the President of the Institute, I would like to share with everyone that I hail from a very humble background. I cannot afford to deny the contributions of various people in my life. Our experiences and our interactions with society we live in shape our personality. They affect our growing-up process by helping us to make right decisions at the right time. I owe my ethos and accomplishments to my parents whose diligent upbringing made me what I am today. I must also express my gratitude towards my brothers and sisters, wife and children, my partners, my teachers and other colleagues. I cannot repay the debt of CA. Surjit Kumar Chopra whom I hold in high esteem as my Guru. I strongly believe that all of them have made very positive and significant influence in shaping my personality so far, and I would never ever forget this. In particular, I would like to acknowledge a few more names in this context: CA. S. C. Vasudeva, CA. N. V. Iyer, CA. V. Rethinam, CA. K. Sampath, CA. Girish Ahuja, CA. K. S. Mehta and CA. R. K. Batra, who have been the guiding angels in myprofessional space. Besides them, I adore late CA. S. P. Chhajed, CA. V. Rajaraman, CA. Y. H. Malegam, CA. T. S. Vishwanath, CA. N. P. Sarda and CA. M. M. Chitale, whom I have always admired as my role models.
Being first amongst equals, I am of the firm opinion that it is prerogative of the entire Council to formulate its mission for the next five years that would continue to build on the foundations laid by our predecessors so that our Institute attains greater heights ofprofessional excellence and world wide recognition. I sincerely believe that at the end of each term of the President and Vice- President, the Council must appraise their performance. I am confident that this mission can be achieved only with the organised efforts and co-operation of all stakeholders ofthe Institute. Some of the areas that will require focus of the Council are:
Enhanced Students Initiatives
There is never enough that we can do for our students, hence they will remain the focus of all our activities this year. The youth of today will be the leaders of tomorrow. However, this can only be possible by providing them the best infrastructure, educational opportunities and exposure that would hone their skills and mold them into excellent professionals.
We are confident that top-notch education is already at their command. However, the world is changing rapidly. Today, our students require many more skills than just good grades to achieve success. These intangible aspects are vital assets for a 21st century CA whether in practice or in industry. To assist us in achieving this goal, we have planned a three-pronged approach that will provide the necessary tools which will enable our students to make progress and succeed in the real competitive world.
Today, communication skills are crucial to attain success and to groom their personality. To gear up our students to face this challenge, we are planning to upgrade our course of General ManagementCommunication Skills (GMCS), both in quantitative and qualitative manner. This well-received course has already helped thousands of our students improve theircommunication skills considerably. We will ensure that the revamped course will enhance our students’ communication skills all the more. Further, existing modules for the IT training course will be revised to include more advanced programmes, tools and processes as per the need of hour.
As more and more students decide to embrace the profession, it becomes for us to provide them an easy access to the best education possible. To fulfill these parameters, we will work on establishing a structure that covers the physical as well as the virtual aspects of education. On the physical front, we wish to put in place regular classroom teaching at all important places under the aegis of the Board of Studies. These classes will provide students complete guidance, covering each and every aspect of the course. More importantly, these will give the added advantage of personal interaction between teachers and students wherein queries and doubts will be solved face-to-face. Taking our IT initiatives forward, we will facilitate more virtual classrooms where students can access lectures on varied subjects by renowned faculty as well as download RTPs, supplementary study material, suggested answers, etc. to prepare for exams. These initiatives will ensure that every CA student in the country has access to quality education in either the physical format or virtual format thus guaranteeing them the education they deserve.
The professionalism instilled in our students has been due to the dual factors of theory and practical education. Our students have always been good in theory. However, intelligent and efficient application of knowledge acquired is the demand of the day. What separates us professionals from others is the practical training which enhances the skills of our students and gives them experience of real life application of theoretical knowledge. We would re-orient the current examination system and correct the balance by putting more emphasis on testing the practical application skills of our students. This will ensure that our students develop into well-rounded professionals known for their all round ability.
Harnessing Information Technology
Information technology has always played a dominant role in our lives and its penetration is getting deeper and deeper. Members and students have appreciated the way in which IT has been incorporated by our Institute to further develop theprofessional skill sets on all fronts. We have reached a stage where we feel that the time has come to make enhanced use of IT on the administration front as well. We will like to ensure that grievance readressal system e-samadhan becomes more responsive and effective. We have already taken steps forward to offer better administrative services during the course of the year and put in place adequate IT infrastructure for the purpose.
Infrastructure is a crucial aspect of providing the best service and facilities to our members and students. It is not simply about land, buildings or spaces but about providing means to reach out to more and more sections of society and bring them into our fold. In other words, adequate infrastructure is what keeps the CA fraternity together and gives it space to blossom. We have pledged to continue expanding on the infrastructure front and provide more facilities and services to all members and students in every city, town and district of India.
Optimisation of Centres of Excellence
Our Centres of Excellence are the pride and joy of the Institute. And now the time has come to ensure that these Centres are utilised to their maximum potential. We would like to put forward concrete plans so that these are not perceived to be just beautiful structures but temples of learning. A group has already been constituted to make necessary suggestions in this regard.
Proactive Research Activities
Our Institute plays multiple roles as educational and regulatory body established by an Act of Parliament. We firmly believe that we have the capacity to present quality research papers to the Government and industries on topics of professional and national interest. Through our research papers, we can make suggestions to the Government and various industries, highlighting ways and measures to make the optimum utilisation of scarce resources of the economy. With our objective views and insight we can observe and perceive aspects that others may not. We plan to initiate dialogue with various government agencies and departments with a view to make varied suggestions to make their working and administration smooth, efficient and cost effective. We would undertake these projects as part of our social responsibility. This will create recognition for the profession in the longer run and will also make us live up to the words ‘Partner in Nation Building’ as spoken for us by former Hon’ble President of India Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
Stimulating Administrative Reforms
The life source of every organisation is its staff. They can carry the organisation on their back to great success and renown. Thus it is extremely important that the staff be motivated. While motivation is essential, what is equally essential is the assignation of the right person for the right job. It would be our goal to put the right persons at the right jobs to extract the best from them.
Dealing with Banks Autonomy and New Professional Avenues
We have always expressed our reservations in respect of the managerial autonomy granted to Public Sector Banks (PSBs) in respect of appointment of auditors. After the issuance of the roadmap by Reserve Bank of India consequent to directive issued by the Government of India for operationalisation of managerial autonomy, we are making all out efforts to impress upon the relevant authorities to revert to the time-tested system of appointment of bank auditors prevalent upto 2005-06.
Moreover, continuing with our vigorous efforts towards exploring and making available ample opportunities for the members of the Institute in different sectors of the economy, this year we have identified railways, health and defence as major sectors to be penetrated where the professional skills of the members could be utilised in a productive and fruitful manner as true partners in nation building.
Boosting Capacity Building Measures
In our increasingly fragmenting business world, consolidation has become a necessity. This is especially true for small and medium practitioners who are trying to cater to a clientele which is becoming more and more special services oriented. Even as CAs become more specialised in their respective fields, it has become imperative to unite with other members who are specialising in varied fields so as to offer a bouquet of services under one roof.
Considering this scenario, we have decided to encourage capacity building exercise on a continuous basis for small and medium practitioners through different approaches. One approach is through modified networking where synergies are matched for optimum results. Also on the anvil is the review of merger and de-merger schemes.
We will also strive to make our knowledge portal available to small and medium practioners which will give access to the Institute’s publications, industry specific guides, and data facilitating the audit of transfer pricing transactions at negligible cost.
Creating Global CAs
The world is shrinking and new opportunities at the global level are being created for our members. We are following a programme that brings to light the exceptional professional qualities of the Indian CA to the world through tie-ups and networking with institutes in other countries. Through the MRAs with other international accounting institutes, we are trying to facilitate easier acquisition of membership of other institutes by our members, thereby making services of Indian CAs available to world at large.
Responsive Disciplinary Mechanism
As our profession and professionals grow exponentially, we are faced with increasing number of disciplinary cases. The ideal situation would be one in which there would not be a single case brought against any member of the Institute. Whereas it may never be possible to reduce the pending disciplinary cases to nil, efforts would be made to deal with the cases in time bound manner. Special attention would be paid to the cases of public interest and these will be taken up on fast track to improve the public perception about the disciplinary mechanism of the Institute.
CABF – Strengthening the Helping Hand
The Chartered Accountant Benevolent Fund (CABF) scheme has been extending economic help and support to the ICAI members at the times of crises for years. We cannot forget the exemplary role played by our Past President late CA. P. A. Nair in promoting and strengthening this scheme. This benevolent fund has been used for providing one time financial assistance to the families of deceased members and also for providing financial support on regular basis to their families for three years which can be extended further in special cases. However, it is a matter of concern that the present corpus is not adequate and does not offer much scope for the actually required and desired assistance to the families of needy members. As such, we need to make serious efforts to increase the corpus of the benevolent fund to fulfill its true objectives. I appeal to all the members to become members of the fund and contribute generously for this noble cause. I am sure that if we come together for this noble cause, we may bring back smiles on the faces of families of our needy professional brethren.
We don’t exist in a vacuum. Along with us exist other sister institutes and regulatory bodies. While our focus is our Alma Mater, we should remember that our sister institutes and other regulatory bodies are also an important aspect of our professional and institutional life. Strengthening the existing bonds while also creating new ones will go a long way in uniting the Institutions together and serving the cause of the nation. The onus lies on us to take the initiative and take the first step towards forming better ties with our sister institutes.
Each and every regulatory body in India performs a vital function in the overall scheme of things. Equally important are the changes in regulations and compliance mandates that are issued by these authorities. These changes affect us all in our professional capacity and must be tracked on a regular basis to ensure that the latest compliance mandates are brought to light as well as enforced. To ensure this we can never take our eyes off the ball.We need to make proactive efforts to build a continuous dialogue process with these bodies, nationally as well as internationally, to ensure highly professional and ethical conduct and services by our members as per requirement, in the best interest of the nation.
The Year Ahead
We have planned and implemented programmes to enlighten professionals on IFRS so as to expand their knowledge base while also doing our best to jump start the process in India. We have taken it on ourselves to act as catalysts to the process of implementation of IFRS.We are sure that ICAI shall enable the government to fulfill its commitment and meet its implementation deadline.
The proposed Direct Tax Code, aimed to simplify the existing taxation mechanism, is already creating waves in the business and industry circles. We at the Institute are undertaking an in-depth analysis of each clause of the Code to recommend modifications to attain the twin objectives of canon of equity and revenue growth. Another major development on the anvil is the enactment of new Companies Bill, 2009, paving the way for the Indian corporates to become global players. Disclosure and transparency are two fundamental tenets of the Bill that will serve the interests of the society. We shall have to work in unison with the Government to achieve the avowed objectives of these proposed legislations.
As members are aware, the Government has taken the revolutionary step of implementing the GST across the country. With our expertise, we can assist the Government in this mammoth and complex task. We will suggest formats to the Government to ensure compliance with GST legislations and avoidance of revenue leakage.
Union Budget 2010-11
Another important development of the season is the Union Budget 2010-11. It is hoped that this Budget is mainly the budget for a rebounding economy and inclusive growth with focus on checking price rise, creation of jobs, quality education, infrastructure development, rationalisation of tax regime and general relief to ‘aam aadmi’. Unlike last year, when the country was still in the grip of slowdown triggered by the global crisis, there is now a sense of optimism as Indian economy has relatively rapidly returned to its growth path. The worst is behind, and with GDP recovering to 7.2 per cent, this Budget will aim at not less than 8 per cent growth for the next fiscal, thereby strengthening the fundamentals for getting back to the pre-crisis high growth trajectory. We will be giving special coverage to the Union Budget in the next issue of the journal.
This is to share with you that on the very first day ofmy assuming the office,myself, the Vice-president and the Secretary, ICAI had a meeting with the Hon’ble Minister of Corporate Affairs Shri Salman Khurshid.We thanked him for the confidence reposed by the MCA in the Institute, and on behalf of the entire fraternity, assured him full support and co-operation in all efforts and initiatives of the MCA. Later on we also had a meeting with Shri R. Bandyopadhyay, Secretary, MCA and Smt. Renuka Kumar, Jt. Secretary, MCA wherein similar sentiments were reiterated. We also met Shri Jitesh Khosla, Director General, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs and decided to organise joint programmes on the issues of professional interest.
Meanwhile, we as members should always remember that we have an active role to play and we should never behave like a passing spectator. If you have any suggestion/ complaint, you may communicate through your respective representatives in the Council. Here it is significant to recall the words of our first President Shri G. P. Kapadia as under:
“While my colleagues and I have endeavoured to solve all difficult problems and to accept constructive criticism, I cannot guarantee the satisfaction of each and every member who for one or the other reason would like to remain dissatisfied. After all, we should think in terms of an autonomous statutory body. You cannot compare the Council of such a body with the Board of Directors of a Company or Managing Agents and say that the members of the Institute are the shareholders. The shareholder is a partner in the business having stakes and having interests of a monetary character. Here the interests are of quite different character altogether; it is the status and prestige of the profession which counts and this is entirely in the hands of each and every member of the Institute.”
I believe one and one makes eleven, not just two. Let’s be sure that ‘Together we can achieve more what we want to achieve for the profession’. I, on behalf of the Council, extend heartiest greetings for Holi. May this festival spread the colors of joy, happiness and friendship in entire professional fraternity.
With Best Wishes,
CA. Amarjit Chopra