A Bangladesh soap opera: privatisation, accounting, and regimes of control in a less developed country

  • Shahzad Uddin, Trevor Hopper
  • Accounting Organizations and Society, October 2001, Elsevier
  • DOI: 10.1016/s0361-3682(01)00019-8

privatisation, accounting, and control in a privatised Bangladesh company

What is it about?

This is an intensive case study of a soap manufacturing company in Bangladesh that was nationalised upon Bangladesh's independence in 1971 and privatised in 1993. Theoretically it is informed by Burawoy's contributions to labour process theory, especially how the consent of labour is manufactured through internal states, internal labour markets and games. Nationalisation brought state attempts to manufacture consent by the methods described by Burawoy but rational planning and control, and bureaucratic means were subverted and transformed by political interventions, often at the behest of trade unions, for party political rather than commercial ends. Accounting and accountability became marginal, ritualistic, and de-coupled from operations. Privatisation brought changes consistent with Burawoy's prediction of coercive controls within a new despotic regime. New owners destroyed the internal state and internal labour markets and, following widespread redundancies, most workers were hired through internal subcontracting. The changes heightened worker divisions and rendered workers powerless to resist. Gaming was observed but this relieved the pressures of work intensification and proved functional to management. Significant changes to accounting controls were made. External reporting ceased in violation of legal requirements — financial accounting became the preserve of the owning family and was beset with irregularities. Budgets became more market oriented and were transmitted downwards in a physical form to reinforce coercive pressures upon managers and thence the shop floor.

Why is it important?

Privatisation has been a plank of government reforms globally and especially in developing countries, often at the behest of the World Bank and the IMF. This paper reveals how after privatisation the controls became more commercial but at the cost of coercive controls over labour and other development goals.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Trevor Martin Hopper and Prof Shahzad Uddin