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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs             25  July 2011

Accountants leave Malaysia for higher wages

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In spite of continued interest in accountancy courses at Malaysian universities and colleges, mid-tier accounting and auditing firms are finding it difficult to hire and retain their accountants.

The problem: the outflow of local talents to foreign “greener pastures”.

Baker Tilly International chief executive officer and president Geoff Barnes said that something needs to be done about this, as “a strong audit profession underpins an economy with good corporate governance, a strong capital market and an economic environment that can cross borders.”

Barnes said the accounting profession has always demanded the brightest of people globally and that good firms have always had this “war for talent, because we are all looking for the best people”.

Local member firm, Baker Tilly Monteiro Heng (BTMH) chief executive partner Heng Ji Keng said many Malaysian accounting graduates see better opportunities in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Singapore and Australia.

Heng added that many graduates left mainly due to the salary disparity. To counter this, he said firms needed assistance from the government as “a word from the Government is better than a thousand words from practitioners”.

“We need to slowly bridge the gap between the salary we pay here and that offered in the countries attracting our talents. We need assistance from the regulators to impress upon clients that low fees also affect the quality of an auditing job,” Heng said.

A fresh graduate can earn up to RM 100,000 (US$33,300) per annum in China, around RM85,000 per annum in Singapore while Australian firms pay about RM160,000 ($ 54,000) per annum. Locally, they would earn about RM 30,000 only.

SJ Grant Thornton (SJGT) managing partner Datuk Narendra Jasani said an estimated 500 accounting graduates out of 1,500 from local universities leave the country every year.

Both firms, BTMH and SJGT, said the government could further benefit the country's accounting profession by liberalising immigration policies.

Heng said the many foreign students studying here could be a good source of accountants for local firms, provided the government revises the related immigration restrictions.

“We must acknowledge their potential and train them to become qualified professional accountants,” he said.


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