The oil company : partnership and the moralities of giving and receiving : corporate community engagement comes to Bangladesh
MetadataShow full item record
Visit the villages in the area that has recently become known as ‘Bibiyana’ in North East Bangladesh and one is struck with a paradox. The villages lie close to a large gas field operated by the multinational oil company Chevron. Named the ‘Bibiyana, gas field’, the plant is one of the largest in Bangladesh, where the extraction of coal and gas by foreign companies is fiercely contested at national and local levels (co-incidentally, the gas plant is opposite Nadampur, where I carried out my doctoral fieldwork in the late 1980s). Since its inauguration in 2007 ‘Bibiyana’ has been promoted by Chevron not only for its state of the art technology but also as a show case for ‘Community Engagement’ and Corporate Social Responsibility, involving a range of development programmes and corporate donations. It is here that the paradox lies. Whilst a short walk through the four communities that are closest to the plant reveals a range of examples of Chevron’s largess: slab latrines that were distributed to every house without sanitation, smoke free chulas (stoves), roofing and building materials for those affected by floods, a medical clinic, and the offices of the Alternative Livelihood Programme that the company funds via a local NGO, when questioned about Chevron’s role in the locality many of the poorest people will tell visitors that ‘They give nothing.’ Meanwhile NGO fieldworkers and Chevron officials alike mutter during unguarded momentsthat despite the obvious benefits that the programmes have brought, ‘the people are very demanding.’ More generally, the research that I and a small team from Jahangirnagar University conducted over 2008-09 revealed significantly different stories. On the one hand, Chevron’s officials painted a picture of successful partnership with ‘the community’, whilst on the other, many of the people we spoke to were disgruntled and critical, claiming that Chevron had not done nearly enough for them. Why should this be so?
CitationGardner, K. (2010) The oil company : partnership and the moralities of giving and receiving : corporate community engagement comes to Bangladesh. Paper presented to London School of Economic Seminar 7th June 2010.
- Urban/Rural