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Thursday, Mar 24, 2005

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Regulatory burden in the name of investor protection

SEBI, pronounced say-bee, was born about a dozen years ago to protect the interests of investors and to promote the development of a regulated stock market. As a regulatory body, it has been busy issuing guidelines for one thing or the other, and so we now have a big heap of them that Taxmann (www.taxmann.com) has brought out as SEBI Manual, running to almost 1,500 pages in small print. The book is `an authorised publication of the Securities and Exchange Board of India,' and comes with a CD containing `almost all' rules, circulars, court judgments, and SAT (SEBI Appellate Tribunal) orders.

Apparently, SEBI hasn't authorised the providing of an index at the end of the book, so true to the name, there's the promise of much manual hunting for topics of your interest. Also, the publisher doesn't waste space for preface, foreword, intro and such, which means we land straight in `RMB (compendium) series circular no. 1'. To know what's RMB, you may go in circles around Renminbi, but before you succeed you'll be assaulted by DIP guidelines which, though not explained, should mean `disclosure and investor protection', I guess from a few lines in the vicinity. GI is general instruction for your protection, as much as GI Joe. One can understand that a sarkari institution such as SEBI can be unfriendly in its communiqués, but it's appalling that a commercial publisher too doesn't care to value-add.

Why complain, because small investors may not deserve much attention, after all, but who is a small investor? "Any investor buying or selling securities on a cash transaction for a market value not exceeding Rs 50,000 in aggregate on any day as shown in a contract note issued by the stock broker," as defined in SEBI (Stock Brokers and Sub-brokers) Regulations, 1992.

In adversity, you can still think of a prank, which is what I'm tempted to do, though in a definitive way. So, let me lead you through a quick thumbing through of the tome by asking you to identify the definition of the following words and phrases: Sub-account, portfolio manager, self-clearing member, scheme property, net worth, sponsor, custodian, fraud and significant transaction. A game you can play with a SEBI man on the other side.

Energy saved is energy produced

IF ACCOUNTING has sapped your energies, think of Energy Auditing Made Simple by P. Balasubramanian (pbala@vsnl.com). The book has scores of practical examples of energy saving, with helpful graphics, to teach you `practical energy auditing' so that you can start your own business as energy auditor. But let me caution hardcore bean counters not to approach this area without some aptitude for physics.

Why energy audit? To achieve cost reduction, answers the author. Energy auditing systematically identifies opportunities for saving energy in the plant, and also identifies loss of energy, scope for retrofitting and modification, and alternate energy sources, explains the book. Saving can be 5 to 25 per cent of your energy cost, and in real terms this can be a good chunk of your outflows.

There are catchy thumb rules such as: "Decreasing the speed of fans and blowers by 10 per cent decreases the power requirement by 27 per cent. Three mm of soot can cause an increase in fuel consumption by 2.5 per cent. Air is 1,500 times more resistant to heat transfer than steel and 13,000 times more than copper. A bare steam pipe 150 mm diameter and 100 mm length, carrying saturated steam at 8 kg/cm2 would waste 25,000 litres of furnace oil in a year."

Bala doesn't lose sight of the eco angle, with counsel such as: "Use industrial vacuum cleaner and eliminate the usage of compressed air. Provide `day light switches' to control lamps in identified areas." For avid number crunchers, there are many problems that come with solutions: such as computing payback period if incandescent lamps and blended mercury vapour lamps are replaced by compact fluorescent lamp, and working out savings in rupees when ventilation is provided by roof extractors in machine shops instead of air circulators and man-coolers.

Energetic read, should we say?

Usable info in a useful format

INVARIABLY, there is a gap in any government, between promises and performance, but Warren Ruppel's GAAP for Governments, from Wiley (www.wiley.com) is about the interpretation and application of generally accepted accounting principles for state and local governments. The preface captures Ruppel's philosophy: "To provide the reader with usable information in a useful format."

Simple, it may seem, but he explains: "Accounting theory must correspond with practical examples to be useful, because theory seldom matches the specific situation." How true! And the author, who was assistant comptroller for accounting of the City of New York, knows your mind: "For technical information to be usable, it must be clearly presented without clutter and unnecessary repetition." A point that the standard setters in our accounting body may kindly repeat a few hundred times for good effect.

BooksOfAccount@TheHindu.co.in

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