Prem Sikka: A nation of accountants

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A nation of accountants | Prem Sikka | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk .

The UK has about 50,000 family doctors, but nearly 280,000 professionally qualified accountants (pdf), often earning exorbitant salaries. That is almost the highest number per capita in the world and more than the rest of the European Union put together. Unsurprisingly,nearly 165,000 students are registered with the UK accountancy trade associations to become professional accountants. In addition, probably more than 100,000 are studying for accounting and business degrees at UK universities and colleges, dwarfing the numbers studying engineering, mathematics and sciences. A record number of graduates are making a career in accounting.

This huge social investment in accountants and accounting technologies has not resulted in the publication of sensible company accounts, orworthwhile company audits (pdf), as evidenced by the banking crisis and other scandals.

Why?:

Accountants have colonised the state to carve out niches. There are no state-guaranteed markets for mathematicians, scientists, designers, information technology experts and other wealth generators, but accountants belonging to a select few trade associations enjoy the state-guaranteed monopoly of insolvency (they share this with law practitioners) and external audits.

The result is most accountants are about as far from an entrepreneur a it is possible to be. Which is why they pomote a model that is so obviously false (neo-liberalism) with such enthusiasm.

As Prem concludes:

The huge social investment in accounting is stunting the development of other sectors of the economy and alternative forms of governance, and that cannot be good for the future of any society.