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The purpose of this paper is to use the case study of development projects in Sri Lanka and development reports published from 1978 to 2006 to trace how the World Bank has utilised accounting rhetoric/languages in articulating development discourses at different stages of global capitalism.Design/methodology/approachMultiple research methods are employed, such as archival research, observations and interviews. Development reports published by the World Bank (1978–2006) are closely examined using discourse analysis.FindingsDevelopment projects in Sri Lanka and development reports during the last three decades demonstrate that ideological shifts brought about the changes in accounting rhetoric in development discourses. The paper further shows that the articulation and re-articulation of development discourses communicated by accounting rhetoric have yet to grasp the real complexity of the local problems in those villages in Sri Lanka. The mere focus on management and governance styles (albeit important) driven by the development ideology and rational accounting rhetoric of the World Bank seems to bring little reward to villagers or, indeed, to the policy makers.Originality/valueThe paper adds to the literature on the use of accounting languages in development discourses, especially in the context of less developed countries. It will be of great value to researchers and practitioners seeking to gain a better understanding of reforms driven by a particular set of accounting technology in distant places.
Journal of Accounting in Emerging Economies – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 2, 2019
Keywords: Sri Lanka; World Bank; Rhetoric; Development discourse; Accounting language
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