Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Owen Arthur’s departure from elective politics


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NOW THAT former three-term Prime Minister Owen Arthur has announced his withdrawal from elective politics after three decades, perhaps the powers that be should give serious consideration to awarding him with this nation’s highest national honour as a Knight of St Andrew – if he is so disposed.
Even a cursory glance of the names of this country’s recipients who adorn the gallery of Knights and Dames, honoured for “extraordinary and outstanding achievement and merit services in Barbados or to humanity at large”, would be sufficient for impartial observers to welcome the inclusion of Owen Seymour Arthur.
With all the bitterness and viciousness of the February 21 general election behind us, and Barbadians across the political divide coping strenuously with stressful cost-of-living challenges, objective independent assessments of the intellectual contributions of the now 63-year-old economist and politician can hardly fail to welcome his elevation.
In my journalistic coverage of the Caribbean Community, I came to recognize Arthur’s voice among the strongest, most eloquent and persuasive in support of meaningful regional economic integration and functional cooperation while he served as Prime Minister and held lead responsibility for establishment of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that remains a work in progress.
As one of the contributors to the valued Contending With Destiny (The Caribbean In The 21st Century – (published on December 31, 2000, for the University of the West Indies by Ian Randle Publishers) – Arthur had outlined six “strategic dimensions” in articulating economic policy options for the Caribbean in the 21st century.
Arthur had observed: “To realize its full potential, the Caribbean needs to move to a new form of governance. No Caribbean society can succeed unless all of its resources are mobilized into support of national development . . . However, the unfortunate aspect of the Westminster model of governance we have inherited is that it has encouraged a ‘to the victors, the spoils mentality’.
“There has been too destructive a competition for political office; too heavy a concentration of power in the hands of ruling elites; an unhealthy preservation of anti-development party and tribal divisions . . .”
This scenario, as is well known, remains a sad reality in this second decade of the 21st century.
Congrats, Mr Arthur, on your first grandchild this July. We have had good interactions over the years, some spiced with strongly expressed disagreements, but with mutual respect. I look forward to reading your promised memoirs.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist;


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