A comparative study of accounting systems in Indonesia and Singapore
Accounting systems are affected by historical, political, social and economic factors. Singapore and Indonesia were chosen for this study because there is very little written about accounting in either country. Singapore was under the British for nearly 150 years and the Indonesians were ruled by the Dutch for over 350 years. Besides these different colonial influences, both countries are different economically, politically and socially. This thesis traces the development of the accounting system, namely, corporate reporting, government accounting, capital market, accounting profession, accounting education and management accounting, in Indonesia and Singapore. It explains the influences that brought about these developments and analyses the features that distinguish the two systems. It is very common for developing countries to adopt foreign accounting systems. In the case of ex-colonies, the tendency has been for them to follow the practices of their colonial masters and to be influenced by the latter even after independence because of their longstanding relationships. However, the degree of reform after independence varies among countries. This study found that for Singapore, the process of adaptation and reform since independence has been dynamic, though, within the historical framework inherited from her colonial period, and there have been continued efforts to improve her accounting system to meet local requirements, and at the same time keep up with developments overseas, not only in the UK but also other developed countries such as the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In the case of Indonesia, major reforms in accounting are slow and in many areas, inadequately coordinated. Reform to the commercial code, adopted from the Dutch in 1848 has been stagnant to the extent that it virtually remains intact. At the other extreme, the Jakarta stock exchange, which was established in 1977 with US support, adopted US accounting and reporting practices. The consequences of the lack of control and co-ordination gave rise to sub-standard accounting practices and the emergence of dualism in accounting training, education and practice. For example, the training and education of accounting technicians follow the Dutch system, whereas at the tertiary level, namely at State universities, the American-oriented approach with a heavy emphasis on financial reporting and auditing is taught. While it is desirable for a developing country to follow and keep up-to-date with accounting practices in developed countries, the blind transplant of foreign systems will yield negative results if the questions of compatibility and the recipient country's needs are not adequately considered. In this regard, Singapore and Indonesia present two contrasting examples on how each country handled the issues of accounting development. Finally, we have learned from this thesis the importance for developing countries to adapt and improvise accounting systems to suit their particular needs, and that purely relying on foreign assistance is inadequate to ensure the success of any national accounting development programme.