“Owen Arthur, without a doubt, is one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century Caribbean. Emerging from the second generation of nation builders he was a successful champion of the most important discourses of his time. We knew him as a quintessential regionalist and a leader in development economics. He was also a humanist with deep commitment to social justice.”
This reflection comes from the Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles in expressing condolences on the passing of the Right Honourable Owen Seymour Arthur, former Prime Minister of Barbados.
The University community, of which Mr Arthur was a vibrant part, is saddened by the news of his death and joins his family, friends, and the people of Barbados in mourning. In 2018, Mr Arthur was appointed Professor of Practice: Economics of Development at The UWI Cave Hill Campus and served until the time of his passing.
Barbados’ fifth and longest-serving Prime Minister, Mr. Arthur was a notable Economist, and an alumnus of both The UWI’s Cave Hill and Mona campuses. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in 1971 in Economics and History at Cave Hill, and his Master’s degree in Economics in 1974 at Mona. He began working in Jamaica in 1973, first as a Research Assistant at the University and later as an Assistant Economic Planner with the Government of Jamaica’s National Planning Agency. In 1981 he returned to Barbados, and worked for the Barbadian Ministry of Finance and Planning from 1981 to 1983, then 1985 to 1986 and also served as a Research Fellow at The UWI’s Institute of Social and Economics Research (now the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) from 1983 to 1985. His political career began with his appointment to the Barbadian Senate in 1983. In 1993 he was appointed as the parliamentary Opposition Leader as head of the Barbados Labour Party and, upon the party’s decisive victory in the September 1994 elections, he became Prime Minister.
After his political career Mr. Arthur remained connected to his alma mater and continued to nurture an intimate relationship with The UWI. Since 2016, he served as one of the eminent patrons of the annual UWI Global Giving Week, which has been dedicated to cultivating support to strengthen The UWI’s capacity to drive regional development. As part of his academic life, he delivered several distinguished lectures, on topics such as “Caribbean Regionalism in the Context of Economic Challenges”, “The IMF and the Caribbean: New Directions for a New Relationship,” and “Brexit and the New Caribbean Trade Agenda.” In 2017, he was a lead participant at the first major public event for the SUNY-UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development hosted in New York—a Symposium titled “The Crisis in Correspondent Banking and its Impact on Sustainable Economic Development in the Caribbean.” In 2018, he was among 70 alumni honoured as part of The UWI’s 70th anniversary celebrations and he also donated his Cabinet papers collated during his 14-year tenure in office to The UWI Cave Hill’s special collections.
In his condolences, Vice-Chancellor Beckles also stated, “The UWI he empowered in his role as Prime Minister, and from which he was proud to be a graduate, researcher, and lecturer, Professor of Practice, and Honorary Distinguished Fellow, celebrates his legacy. Condolences are offered to his family, and government and people of Barbados.”