This article was first published in the February 2018 China edition of Accounting and Business magazine.

In recent years Myanmar has experienced radical change. After decades of military rule, a gradual liberalisation process began in 2010 and 2016 saw the election of the first democratically elected government.  

At the same time the country has been undergoing a major economic transition, which has witnessed acceleration in growth assisted by increased gas production and exports. Economic growth is still projected to continue despite political change and natural disasters; in particular, major flooding decreased the supply of commodities, while low commodity prices and slowing foreign investment, contributed to widening current account and fiscal deficit, according to the World Bank.

Despite these setbacks, the economy is growing, with the World Bank predicting that the country’s economy will grow 7.1% per year over the next three years. And as industries like manufacturing and hospitality continue to develop, more businesses need accountancy and tax services. This is where finance professionals like Dr Tin Latt FCCA, managing director at MAT Audit & Professional Services, come in.

Building and sustaining

‘I strongly believe that accountants contribute their initiative and intellectual abilities to building and sustaining the economy of any nation,’ Latt says. ‘Accountants play key roles in maintaining the transparency and accountability of any organisation, which is crucial to gaining the trust and confidence of stakeholders. 

‘As a result, organisations can pursue investors and other stakeholders for their strong participation and relationships, which in turn contributes to the growth of the nation’s economy.’ 

As well as providing corporate advisory, tax and consulting services, Latt also runs a training college, which he founded in 1995. He has taught and mentored hundreds of students and, since 2003, he has also worked as a visiting lecturer at the Myanmar Accountancy Council. In addition, he writes on finance, economics, law and accountancy for local trade journals and magazines. 

As Myanmar’s accountancy profession develops, training is vital, Latt says. ‘Because of changing laws and regulations in the country’s reform process, it is a major challenge for professional accountants to update their knowledge,’ he says.

Latt knew that he wanted to be an accountant when he was a teenager, starting his training before he turned 20. 

‘I would say that initially I was not interested in choosing accountancy as a career,’ he admits. ‘But my environment convinced me. I graduated from the Institute of Economics with a commerce specialisation. Then I attended certified public accountant programmes for two years and became an apprentice, training under the supervision of the Myanmar Accountancy Council.’ 

International outlook

Latt has seen the services offered by Myanmar’s accountancy sector become increasingly diverse as the economy develops and more. ‘Today, accountancy firms in Myanmar provide a wide range of services, which include not only traditional accounting and audits, but other value-added services such as risk-based auditing and transaction services to their clients,’ he says. ‘Local firms working in collaboration with international firms may have more experience and capability to provide such kinds of services.’ 

Another significant factor in the development of Myanmar’s accountancy sector, Latt notes, has been the growth in legislation. Ethics laws, originally created in 1972, were revised and updated in 1994 and again in 2015. These changes mean that professionals must be on their toes and ready to learn new skills as the landscape changes. ‘Myanmar’s accountancy law ensures accountants spend their professional life in an ethical manner,’ he says. 

For Latt, education and training the next generation of finance professionals is vital. ‘Professionally qualified accountants have different skill sets and experience in the field of finance, accounting, business, management, governance, law and economics, which are highly demanded in the process of driving businesses,’ Latt says. ‘It is important to build capacity in fledgling accountants so that they have the opportunity to extend their career in local conglomerate and international companies.’ 

For this reason, Latt is also involved with the Myanmar Institute of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA), of which he is currently vice chairman. ‘MICPA is playing a big role in developing the accountancy profession in Myanmar by supporting its members in collaboration with local and international stakeholders,’ Latt explains. 

The institute collaborates with public affairs offices from countries like Australia, and works with international organisations on professional development programmes. MICPA also works on drafting laws and regulations, and helps advise government ministries on taxation, auditing, accounting, and other financial and economic issues. 

ACCA also plays a crucial role in Myanmar, says Latt, who decided to study for the ACCA Qualification because he believed it would help him develop into an internationally qualified professional accountant. After qualifying he went on to help students achieve the same. 

‘I delivered ACCA programmes in my ACCA training schools from 1998 to 2012, and I taught more than 3,000 ACCA students in various subjects such as advanced financial reporting, audit and assurance, financial management, performance management, and business analysis,’ he explains, adding that following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between MICPA and ACCA, he will continue collaborating with ACCA in the delivery of professional development programmes. 

Cristina Maza, journalist