The passing of former Prime Minister of Barbados, Owen Arthur, is a great loss to Caribbean intellectual thought, practice and leadership. I co-authored with him in 1985 a UWI published book, entitled ‘Commercialization of Technology and Dependence in the Caribbean’, and witnessed at first hand his seamless transition from political-economy steeped academia to political activism and ultimate political power.
His assumption of the position of Prime Minister in 1994 and assignment by his peers, until his demitting office in 2008, as “lead Head of Government” for furthering of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy process, resulted in very significant acceleration in regional economic integration.
This acceleration coincided with my stint as Economic Adviser to the then Secretary-General of CARICOM, with specific responsibility for deepening the Single Economy process, and I can therefore attest that Owen Arthur had a real understanding of the intricacies and requirements of true economic integration and it was a revelation to observe the drive and energy with which he sought to educate his colleagues on the issue at their various Heads of Government Conferences.
When Professor Owen Arthur spoke, everyone listened. It is therefore not surprising that, with the ending of his three term leadership in 2008, the economic integration process began to lose momentum and to experience a virtual “pause”.
I wish to extend my sincere condolences to his wife Julie and the extended family; and to the Government and people of Barbados.
Owen Arthur joins a very select group in the pantheon of truly great West Indian leaders.