A top official at the oil and gas giant Chevron of the United States believes Bangladesh is on the leading edge of innovative development practices and strong economic development models are available there.
"So there are strong economic development models available here that we can build on and many capable partners with whom we look forward to collaborating," said Chevron Bangladesh Country Manager Geoff Strong.
Chevron committed $10 million to its five-year Bangladesh Partnership Initiative (BPI), in September. Its aim is to promote economic stability, job creation and accelerate sustainable growth in local communities where Chevron operates.
It is trying to take its experiences in the private sector and apply them to international development and so far it has implemented programmes in Angola, Nigeria, Kazakhstan and now Bangladesh.
Last year Chevron finalized a deal to provide roughly $130 million in compensation for its oil spill in the ocean northeast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Roughly one-third of the money will be devoted to social and environmental projects, according to the company.
Chevron is the largest foreign investor in Bangladesh with investments-to-date over $1.5 billion. Chevron is also the largest corporate income tax-payer in Bangladesh in fiscal years 2009-2013. Under BPI we will be tripling our annual social investments for the next 5 years, company sources said.
In an email interview to Tom Murphy, a reporter of Humanosphere news portal of the Seattle International Foundation, published on Friday Strong Geoff explained why did Chevron launch the development initiative in Bangladesh.
"We have learned through decades of experience that our business success is deeply linked to development and progress of the communities in which we operate", Strong said in his email reply to Murphy.
Chevron has launched the BPI for supporting economic development in the communities around our operations in the country's greater Sylhet region
When the US oil and gas company started developing projects in 2006, over one-third of all households in Sylhet region were living below the poverty line.
These were predominantly agrarian communities in an area with virtually no industrial presence. So, with challenging development conditions come huge opportunities to improve their lives and to be a part of their success, Strong said.
Chevron knows that if its communities around succeed, then the company will succeed. The company helps local communities to take their share in the success of its operations through hiring.
"We have provided employment opportunities for about 1,200 local workers on the Bibiyana Expansion Project and have spent an average of nearly $6 million this year on goods and services with local businesses in the Bibiyana area alone," Strong told Murphy in his email reply.
But Chevron also knows that social investment and partnerships can create a far greater impact than financial investment can achieve alone. That's why Chevron works on building local capacity and community programs, like BPI, as it is a complementary approach to development that helps to magnify impact.
This approach also advances the economic strength of the region by building a better educated community that is prepared with the skills necessary to fill the jobs Chevron and other industrial entities have to offer.
Chevron recently commissioned three strategic studies by internationally reputed institutions to understand the landscape and to link the local context and opportunities with the local and national market structure, Strong disclosed.
Besides these three strategic studies, Chevron is in discussion with leading private sector and bi-lateral and multilateral donors to identify partnership opportunities.
The financial modalities of BPI are still being fleshed-out, but Chevron will look to partner with and leverage funding from multilateral donor agencies, local chambers of commerce, and other companies with a strong presence in Bangladesh to drive sustainability and accelerate economic growth.
Over the next five years, the BPI will establish enterprise and workforce development programs in the areas where Chevron operates. The objective of these programs is to promote economic stability and accelerate sustainable growth.
Chevron plans to partner with government and private sector enterprises through this initiative. To enable successful outcomes, the program will also support expanding the geographic coverage and social inclusiveness of existing Chevron sponsored microenterprise oriented Village Development Organizations, while strengthening access to broader economic development opportunities.
Chevron's Community Development Green Initiatives program aims to boost the production of organic and high-yielding varieties of fruit, vegetable, cash-crop and pond-fish. It is also building awareness among local farmers on the harmful effects of chemical fertilizers. In partnership with our communities, Chevron has also planted over 23,500 saplings, Strong said.