The evolution of accounting in Saudi Arabia : a study of its relevance to the social and economic environment
The need to study the evolution of accounting in its environmental setting in developing countries is increasingly recognised in the literature. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the evolution and status of accounting systems in developing countries, with particular reference to the Saudi Arabian environment. It attempts to highlight the main shortcomings in each component of the accounting system (education, profession, enterprise, government and national accounting) and to put forward suggestions and recommendations for improvement which reflect the socioeconomic development needs. The study has shown that Saudi Arabia is a developing country which has adopted a comprehensive development planning approach as its vehicle towards growth and socio-economic development, and its accounting system should serve this objective. In effect, however, the prevailing accounting system and practice in Saudi Arabia, including the recent developments, are based on the Anglo-Saxon accounting system, which is described as being complex to operate, particularly in a country with a relatively less sophisticated accountants' audience; its emphasis upon the external reporting and external auditing; and its virtual exclusion of government or public sector needs.In contrast, the study suggests that most accounting shortcomings in Saudi Arabia would be alleviated by the adoption of a uniform accounting system, as such a system would facilitate the collection, storage and communication of accounting data, and facilitate the training process and transfer of "know-how" and skills. It was also found that the prevailing conditions and circumstances of the accounting environment in Saudi Arabia indicate that a national uniform accounting system would be both desirable and feasible. These conditions and circumstances include, among other things, centralised development plans, the need for economic development, the small size of the private sector, the relatively low accounting education level, the weakness of the accounting profession, and the low level of management training.However, because such a system is likely to take a long time to establish, a plan for improving the current accounting system is proposed. The plan is based upon the socio-economic development needs of Saudi Arabia, which urgently require simultaneous improvements of all components of the accounting system noted above, by integrating them into a single framework of action. The plan assumes the willingness of accounting academicians, public accountants, and government officials, particularly those involved in planning, implementation, and control of the economic and financial activities of the country, to participate in the accounting improvement process. Moreover, the proposed plan should be viewed as a part of the overall five-year economic development plan which already exists.