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Accounting was far from enticing
September, 20th 2007
Bijoy Ghosh

Stretch your shelf.

In a strict historical sense, professions included theology, medicine, and law, writes Joseph Epstein in Why I am not a lawyer, an essay that comes immediately after Speaking for the dead in In a Cardboard Belt! ( ).

A looser construction of professional, about half a century ago, in the middleclass Chicago neighbourhood that Epstein talks about in the essay, included dentistry, at a stretch accounting (at the CPA level), possibly at the very lower end pharmacy, and I suppose veterinary medicine.

Accounting was far from enticing, reminisces the author. I had a high school friend who evinced some interest in accounting, but when he told his immigrant and quite successful father about his possibly becoming an accountant, the old boy is said to have replied, Lloydie, dont be a schmuck. You dont become an accountant you hire an accountant.

Looking back, Epstein wonders, As a lawyer, would I have had the character, which is to say the moral stamina, to practise law with the probity the profession has always required and without which it is no more than a used-car dealership without the burden of inventory? And he answers, Better, perhaps, that I became instead the writer that I am.

He reasons that it is a much easier job to be an investigator or critic of morality, which is what a writer does, than a lawyer, someone called upon to practise morality, relentlessly and at the highest level, day after day after day.


* * *

Rural development redefined

Conservation and regeneration of rural landscapes these are not what are implied by rural development, rues Farida Akhter in one of the essays included in Globalising Rural Development edited by M.C. Behera ( ). The phrase simply implied, against the backdrop of urbanisation, the state-mediated policy and programs to shape the rural to meet the urban need.

The purpose, says Akhter, had always been the destruction of non-industrial landscapes in order to shape them to better serve as the hinterlands of industry, particularly as the supplier of raw materials and labour as well as the dumping ground of industrial wastes.

Of importance.

* * *

Informal you cant ignore

A fuzzy term for researchers has been informal economy. Quite disturbingly, the phrase is at times used synonymously with the black or criminal economy, which produces illicit goods and is a manifestation of the desire of economic agents to avoid disciplinary regulation, write Barbara Harriss-White and Anushree Sinha in Trade Liberalization and Indias Informal Economy ( ).

Informal economy covers a larger set of activities than the merely black or shadow economy, they explain. It involves the non-state-regulated processes of goods and services which are legitimate and compete with formal sector products.

Three forms of informal activity the authors list are: survival (subsistence production or petty trade), dependent exploitation (small-scale commercial production), and growth strategies (casualisation of labour by formal firms to increase managerial flexibility and reduce wage costs).

With roughly nine out of ten of Indias working population gaining livelihoods in the informal economy (35 per cent of whom live under the poverty line), it is of prime importance to study the impact of liberalisation on this sector, insist the authors.

For the big picture about something you just cant afford to ignore.

* * *

Mission costing

Significant low-hanging benefit opportunities may be waiting in the logistics area, say Anurag Saxena and Kaaushik Sircar in Logistics & Supply-Chain Management ( ). However, for a lowest cost logistics approach to succeed, it must begin by addressing two key points, they add: First, a clear identification of the firms customer service/business goals and, second, a detailed, accurate and complete calculation of current logistics costs.

One of the methods of computing logistics cost is mission costing, which is based on the total systems cost of meeting the desired logistic objectives (the output of the system) and the costs of the various inputs involved in meeting these outputs, as the book explains.

Logistics and SCM, as you know, are a must on the professional cost managers radar.

* * *

Energise Excel

Lets say you have entered a lot of data into your worksheets. You may then want to manipulate the data to see what conclusions can be drawn from the same. Two powerful tools to help you in this task are PivotTables and PivotCharts.

Pivot may sound mysterious and cause you to shift in your chair, but it should help to know that PivotTable is a form of report that works by rearranging the fields and records in a table into a different format, explains Guy Hart-Davis in How to Do Everything with Microsoft Office Excel 2007 ( ).

You can rotate (pivot) the columns in a PivotTable to display data summarised in different ways, easily sort the table in various ways, filter data, and collapse and expand the level of information displayed.

If your job involves working backward from the result you want to achieve (as often happens in accounting!), try the Goal Seek feature of Excel, says a chapter on what-if analysis. The Solver add-in comes handy when you have to manipulate two or more values when working backward.

Tips that can enhance your spreadsheet productivity.

* * *

Ancient audit inputs

Vedic texts speak of many usable techniques for auditors, says a recent publication of the Research Committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India ( Study on Unconventional Methods in Special Audits and Investigations. For instance, in Nyaya Shastra, Sage Gautama mentions several pramanas (modes or methods) of establishing the truth, one learns. These are: pratyaksha (physical verification), anumana (inference or logic), upamana (description), anupalabdhi (elimination of fallacy to establish the truth or inverse logic), and shabda (axioms).

The book begins with TTTs or tiger team tests a.k.a. penetration tests. These tests of internal controls and procedures are different from walk-through tests because of the inclusion of intentional attacks. Tiger teams date back to ancient times, says the book. Just a few hours before his death, after the Kurukshetra war, lying on his deathbed of arrows, the legendary Bhishma gave a long discourse on Rajdharma to Yudhisthir

As one of the lessons on good and successful governance, Bhishma advised the victorious king to independently test out friends and foes constantly by sending decoys or messengers in disguise (modern day tiger teams) to interact with sepoys, guards, ministers and subjects at all levels

Unconventional read.


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