Professor, the Rt. Owen Seymour Arthur Gone – Never Forgotten

By O. St. E. Mackie Holder

Professor, the Rt. Owen Seymour Arthur Gone – Never Forgotten

The staff of Team Barbados: Consular, BTMI and Invest Barbados, at the Barbados Consulate General of Barbados at New York and Barbadian Associations under the jurisdiction of the Consulate join fellow Barbadians and Caribbean citizens the world over in mourning the loss of Barbados’ fifth Prime Minister.

On behalf of all, it is with great sadness that I extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Mrs. Julie Arthur; daughters Sabrina and Leah, sister Valmay, brother Richard and the whole Arthur family.

Mr. Arthur passed away, at 70, in the early minutes of Monday, July 27 morning at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados.

He was the longest serving Prime Minister of Barbados, for 14 unbroken years from 1994 – 2008 and served the constituency of St. Peter, where he grew up, for more than three decades, from 1984 – 2018.

With his loss, there is a huge vacuum in the Barbados political, economic and education landscape, Caribbean integration, world agitation of small island states, and academic discourse.

Arthur was the dominant figure in Barbados, a Caribbean statesman and acclaimed academic whose career was distinguished by excellence.

He delivered massively and spectacularly for Barbados, engineering a threshold of economic growth that was never attained before or since he left office and matched this with widespread social development in his drive to make Barbados, as he always said, the first small developed country in the world.

His successes were many and will be fully chronicled in time. But among them was reducing unemployment from some 27% to seven per cent, introducing a law preventing the cutting of civil servant salaries and creating space and developing a plethora of small and medium sized businesses through a combination of loan facilities and the Rural and Urban Development Corporations, which attacked poverty.

Visionary, inspirational and an exceptional leader, Arthur believed smallness was no hindrance to greatness and understood that a country like Barbados needed its own celebrations and symbols. He, therefore, introduced the Day of National Significance, National Heroes Day along with Barbados’ 11 heroes, the introduction of statues to our heroes and advanced the development of sports and culture, notably cricket and calypso.

An economist by training who rose from very humble circumstances, he remained a champion of the people, retained the common touch and generated great love and respect even among his opponents. Nowhere was this on greater display than in the constituency he represented, which, like Barbados, he transformed.

Arthur, who spent many years in Jamaica as a student and top public servant, where he was revered, was also an exceptional regionalist. He stood firmly against any notion that regional countries could be bullied, making strong and pointed statements that the independence of all states is the same regardless of size. He was the architect of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and an unshakable supporter of the University of the West Indies, of which he was a graduate, facilitating the expansion of the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados.

The Cave Hill campus was happy to claim this luminary – brilliant speaker, ferocious debater with remarkable knowledge in several spheres – and Arthur was first given an office at Cave Hill after demitting the Office of Prime Minister and, after 2018 when he gave up politics, was installed as Professor of Practice: Economics of Development.

It was by good fortune to have known Prime Minister Arthur for almost all my life – we grew up in the same district – and, even better, to have worked closely with him in numerous political campaigns and with him as Personal Aide, Senior Research Analyst and Consultant.

Being in the presence of Owen Arthur was like an everyday masterclass. There were so many lessons to learn, simply by observation, and the memories are many and great.

Everyone knows of his economic brilliance, uncanny leadership skills and accomplishments as Prime Minister.

I also know of a meticulous preparer, prodigious reader, a man of self-discipline who hated to be late for any appointment and who always looked the part.

I know of a man with wide interests, many of which he was also very good at. He always said he wished he could have been a West Indies cricketer, a sport he loved. He was a gardener, a cook and a “hard” dominoes and cards player.

I know of a devoted father, a man who loved children, who believed in giving young people a chance, a loyal friend, a man of humility and kindness, a man who sought solace in the wonders of nature exploring gullies and unbeaten paths.

Barbados and the Caribbean has lost a true patriot, a rare talent and a giant of man.

A nation, in fact nations, can attest to the benefits of this most transformative gift. His legacy will benefit generations to come.

Like so many, as we all grieve, I will cherish the time spent with him and the memories.

Professor, the Rt. Owen Seymour Arthur. Gone – Never Forgotten.

Mr. O. St. E. Mackie Holder is the Consul General, Consulate General of Barbados in New York.

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