Along with Barbados’ second female Governor General Dame Sandra Mason, and the Director of Public Prosecutions Donna Babb-Agard, the three (3) most powerful women in Barbados have one thing in common, in that they attended the same secondary school – Queen’s College.
Mottley was twice the leader of the Opposition in House of Assembly of Barbados first from 2008 to 2010 then from 2013 to 2018. In 2018, the Mottley-led Barbados Labour Party (BLP) won a historic landslide victory in the May 24th, 2018 general election. By securing all 30 seats in the House—making them the first party to accomplish this feat—in addition to winning 72.8% of the popular vote, which is the highest share ever achieved by a party in a general election.
Her family has much influenced Mottley. She is the granddaughter of Ernest Deighton Mottley (1907–1973), a real estate broker and successful politician, particularly at the parish level. He was the first Mayor of Bridgetown (1959), representing Bridgetown in the House of Assembly from 1946, who belonged to the conservative party and helped the poor. He was granted the Ordinary Commander of the Civil Division for public services in Barbados in June 1962. He assisted Wynter Algernon Crawford (1910–1993), Barbados’s Trade Minister, at the Independent Conference in London during June and July 1966.
Mottley’s uncle, also named Ernest Deighton Mottley, became the political leader of the short-lived Christian Social Democratic Party (CSD) created in March 1975.
Mia’s father, Elliott Deighton Mottley, was also a barrister who sat in the House of Assembly, albeit for a relatively short time before vacating the seat to become consul-general in New York. He was educated at Eagle Hall School, Harrison College, and Middle Temple of the Inns of Court School of Law once served as Bermuda’s attorney-general and sat on Belize’s Court of Appeal. He married Mia’s mother, Santa Amor Tappin, in December 1967, just three years after being called to the Bar and was elected to represent Bridgetown in May 1969. It has been suggested that the Prime Minister of the time, Errol Barrow, used his parliamentary majority to abolish local government altogether and therefore undermine Elliott Mottley’s strength in the political arena.
Mia Mottley was educated at Merrivale Preparatory School, the United Nations International School, and Queen’s College.
By 1986, Mottley finalized her training as an attorney and received a law degree from the London School of Economics.
Mottley first entered Barbadian politics in 1991, when she lost an election race in St. Michael North East against Leroy Brathwaite (a defeat of fewer than 200 votes). Between 1991 and 1994, she was one of two Opposition Senators in the Upper House, Senate of Barbados, where she was Shadow Minister of Culture and Community Development. During that time, she also served on numerous Parliamentary Joint Select Committees on areas ranging from Praedial Larceny and Domestic Violence.
Following the BLP’s victory in the 1994 general election, Mottley was appointed to the Minister of Education, Youth Affairs and Culture in September 1994, under Prime Minister Owen Arthur; at the age of 29, she became one of the youngest Barbadians ever to be assigned a ministerial portfolio. During her tenure, she co-authored the White Paper on Education entitled Each Child Matters, which draws the link between better education and job fulfillment.
She was elected General Secretary of the Barbados Labour Party in 1996. In that same year and again in 1997, she served as Chairman of the Caricom Standing Committee of Ministers of Education.
Mottley was appointed Attorney-General and Minister of Home Affairs in August 2001 and is the first female (in Barbados) to hold this position. She is also the youngest ever Queen’s Counsel in Barbados. In addition to being a Member of the Privy Council of Barbados, she was Leader of the House and a member of the National Security Council and the Barbados Defence Board. She is also credited with being the visionary behind the Education Sector Enhancement Programme, popularly known as “Edutech,” which aims to increase the number of young people contributing to the island’s sustainable social and economic development. This revolutionary program involves the widespread use of information and communication technologies to assist in improving the quality of the teaching/learning process.
In Youth Affairs, Mottley directed the establishment of the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme and a National Youth Development Programme.
Two years later Mottley was to serve as Barbados’ second female Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Social Council of Barbados and the Deputy Chairman of Barbados’ Economic Council. This position she held until 2008 that allowed her extended responsibilities, including the chairmanship of several critical Cabinet sub-committees, notably Telecommunications Reform and one oversight of the administrative and legislative initiatives to prepare Barbados for the advent of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.
In a government reshuffle in February 2006, Mottley was appointed as Minister of Economic Affairs and Development, a post she also held until 2008, where her responsibilities put her in charge of key economic agencies.
Following the BLP’s defeat in the election held on January 15th, 2008, and Owen Arthur’s resignation as party leader, Mia Mottley was chosen and elected as BLP party leader in a leadership election on January 19th, 2008 against Former Attorney-General of Barbados, Dale Marshall (politician). She is the first woman to lead the party, as well as the country’s first female Opposition Leader. Mottley was sworn in as Opposition Leader on February 7th, 2008. She promised the people that the Barbados Labour Party would be a strong and unified Opposition that would fight for the rights of all citizens in the country.
On October 18th, 2010, Mottley’s appointment as Leader of the Opposition was revoked following a vote of no-confidence by five of her parliamentary colleagues. The five MPs placed their support behind former Prime Minister Owen Arthur. He assumed the leadership position that same day after another leadership election where former Prime Minister Owen Arthur defeated Mia Mottley.
In the February 2013 general election, the BLP was narrowly defeated, obtaining 14 seats against 16 for the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). A few days after the election, on February 26th, 2013, the BLP parliamentary group elected Mottley as Leader of the Opposition, replacing Arthur.
Barbados Prime Minister
Out of 135 candidates in the 2018 general election, the BLP recorded a historic landslide victory, winning all 30 seats in parliament and over 70% of the popular vote, making Mottley the first woman to be elected to the post of prime minister in Barbados, assuming office on May 25th.
In May 2018, the Prime Minister disclosed previously uncovered financial obligations of the state. Prime Minister Mottley said that the new government inherited a massive debt. Disclosure of information about the current level of debt has led to an increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio from 137% to 175%. This is the fourth-highest value in the world after Japan, Greece, and Sudan. Mottley announced that the new government had no other choice than to ask the IMF to facilitate debt restructuring.
On June 5th, 2018, Barbados didn’t fulfill its obligation to pay the 26th coupon on Eurobonds maturing in 2035. This was the first time in history that a sitting government did not meet its commitment.
Compiled by: Brett Callaghan