IFRS contributions from around the world, or: not my first language!

In a recent speech, IASB Chair Hans Hoogervorst paid tribute to the Korea Accounting Standards Board on its 20th anniversary:

  • In the past 20 years, the KASB has developed into one of the most influential national accounting standard-setters in the Asia-Oceania region. The KASB is renowned for the quality of its technical work and has produced important contributions to many of the IASB’s meetings and discussions.
  • I remember one particular KASB paper that shed light on how the use of multiple English terms for very similar concepts in IFRS Standards can be maddeningly confusing to non-English speakers. This paper was an eye-opener for us and since its presentation we have tried to be more disciplined in our use of English terms. English is not my first language, but I use it every day and I can assure you that the richness of the language can still be very perplexing.
  • Korea started influencing international standards even before the IASB and the KASB were born. Our history books show that representatives from Korea took part in meetings of the IASC—the predecessor body of the IASB—as long back as the 1980s!

I wonder whether a large portion of the audience audibly gasped at the evocation of such far-off times (actually, I myself recall coming across IASC manuals in the 1980s, and being confident that they were only of interest to the extreme geeks). I might note that the acronym KASB isn’t universally associated with enlightenment, as it also stands for the Kansas Association of School Boards, thus evoking past attempts to emphasize “intelligent design” over evolution. But we can no doubt accept that the Korean KASB has consistently been a force for good. Of course, other national standard-setters have played their part, as evidenced by these other archival Hoogervorst tributes:

United Kingdom I remember a ground-breaking meeting in which the British representative peppered his conversation with references to “bloody” this and “bloody” that. As English is not my first language, I took this to indicate that some form of violent carnage had afflicted the standard-setting process, and I called for a moment of commemorative silence. It was an eye-opener to learn that these were in fact expletives, and that the speaker was merely being, as we say in the Netherlands, a bit of an oelewapper. Since then, many of us at the IASB have however adopted this style, to the point where one of our newest board members was surprised to learn that “Bloody IFRIC” wasn’t in fact the official name! Perhaps we should look at changing that!

Gambia I attended a remarkable session of the IASB in which Gambia was mentioned in some context or another. As English is not my first language, I thought for some now-forgotten reason that “Gambia” was the English name for Norway, and the conversation proceeded on this mistaken basis for a while, during which other board members politely tolerated my pointless reflections on fjords and the Northern Lights. Once the error was discovered, we agreed that Gambia would never be mentioned at a board meeting again. However, I’m sure the country is full of people who love IFRS!

United States Hundreds of foreign private issuers are reporting using IFRSs, which represents trillions of dollars in market capitalization. So the use of IFRS in the United States is far from marginal, which explains why the American SEC remains very interested in progress being made by the IASB. Of course, as the country is now ruled by a deranged America-first tyrant, any further movement toward anything with “international” in the title is currently unimaginable. English is not my first language, but I use it every day, which is more than can be said for that fool in the White House. Hold your applause, please!

Japan is home to our only office outside London, now led by Makoto Takahashi. Tokyo is also the city where I have spent more time than any other city since becoming Chairman of the IASB. This is my 11th visit in the last seven years and I always love to come back, since no other country is so passionate about accounting as Japan. Actually, it’s partly that, and partly my love for the cat cafes, in which I achieve a tranquility and peace which is customarily denied me. English, as you may be aware, is not my first language – indeed, sometimes I think it’s my third, behind Dutch and Meow!

Brazil Brazil has been a leading force in Latin America’s move to adopt IFRS Standards, and we always get insightful comments from Brazil to our consultations. My only slight reservation related to the suboptimal quality of paper used by our Brazilian friends in their correspondence, and on an occasion when I was privileged to meet President Bolsonaro, I noted how ironic this seemed, given the abundance of high-quality forestry available to the country. English may not be my first language, but I think I made my point more effectively than I intended to!

Yikes! Once again, happy holidays!

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author

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