Governance and Public Policy consultant and former general secretary of the Democratic Labour Party George Pilgrim describes former Prime Minister Owen Arthur as a titan of politics who distinguished himself as the People’s Prime Minister.
Below is the full text of the tribute written by George Pilgrim:
I first came face to face with Professor Owen Arthur during my formative years, just as he was emerging as the future leader of the Barbados Labour Party and Barbados.
His greetings to me were always preceded by “Mr Pilgrim” as he used to say in his semi-formal humorous tone. Our relationship was forged in my early 20s and extended through many a telephone conversation.
When the late Owen Arthur spoke to Barbados, one of the main things that struck me was his passion. A passion for politics and for his country Barbados.
Arthur redefined the office of Prime Minister and distinguished himself as a CARICOM leader. The relationships he forged with many Barbadians on various fronts set him aside as the people’s Prime Minister.
Owen’s display and craft of language could cut his strongest opponents into pieces, though very often in a humourous and intriguing way.
The behaviour he displayed often took no prisoners, he was a clear thinker with a laser focus on the mission at hand. He understood the importance of delivery and I recall his mission to restructure the Barbados economy, which was testament to his intellect. Barbados’ economy saw growth leading to single- digit decline in unemployment rates under his tenure. The emphasis on the generation of foreign exchange saw our nation experiencing high levels of foreign exchange reserves.
He saw the creation of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) as critical and made no excuses for their establishment. The redesign of the Barbados’ social delivery was authored by Arthur.
Arthur improve the lives of Barbadians particularly with the establishment of the Rural and Urban Development Commissions.
Owen was a titan in politics and often appeared bigger than Barbados. We have all benefited from his wisdom in so many ways, from his important policies, papers on regional development and his efforts to build economic integration. His writings became a great source of reference to many students of the UWI and the BCC.
Sadly, Owen has now passed and I regret not having learned more from him. RIP.
George A Pilgrim BSc MSc. JP
Governance and Public Policy consultant
Former General Secretary of Democratic Labour Party
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