Rt. Hon. Owen Seymour Arthur was the 5th Prime Minister of Barbados. Arthur held office from 7 September 1994 until 17 January 2008.
Arthur was born on October 17th, 1949, to working-class parents. Educated at Coleridge and Parry Boy’s School, Arthur went on to attend Harrison College.
He completed a post-secondary degree in economics and history and a Master in Social Sciences from the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill and Mona campuses.
During his professional career, Arthur gained experience working with Jamaica’s National Planning Agency and the Bauxite Institute.
Upon returning to Barbados, Arthur took on the position of project analyst with the Ministry of Finance and Planning in 1981.
Two years later, Arthur began his political career in earnest when he was appointed into the Senate (1983). One year later, Arthur ran for the House of Assembly. After losing the 1984 election by only 1 vote, Arthur tenaciously appealed to the Barbados High Court. The resulting re-election led to Arthur’s membership in the House of Assembly.
In 1986 the BLP was defeated during the national elections. Frustrated, Arthur threatened to leave politics while assuming a position as an economics lecturer at the University of the West Indies. Nevertheless, Arthur persevered and remained an active figure in local politics.
In 1993 Arthur was chosen to serve as Leader of the Opposition for the Barbados Labour Party (BLP). One year later, Arthur was elected as Prime Minister of Barbados.
Appealing to the common people, Arthur spoke in a language that was familiar and accessible. His campaign included radio talk shows whereby he won the hearts of the masses. In Current Leaders of the Nation, Arthur is quoted as stating: “No country can ever truly develop unless it finds the means of engrossing everyone in the task of Nation-building, whatever their class, creed, color or political persuasion.”
Arthur’s inclusion policy and his appeal to the masses led to a landslide BLP victory during the 1999 general elections. Winning 26 of the total 28 Assembly seats, Arthur led the BLP into a second term.
During the 2003 election campaign, Arthur proposed a 2005 national referendum. The referendum intended to lead the country into the Parliamentary Republic, thereby replacing Queen Elizabeth II with a Barbadian President as Head of State.
The referendum was delayed and eventually fell by the wayside as other matters – such as the CARICOM Single Market implementation process and Cricket World Cup 2007 – took precedence. Arthur was eventually defeated during the 2008 general election when the DLP rose back to power under the leadership of David Thompson.
Arthur maintained popularity in his constituency of St. Peter and was re-elected into the House of Assembly. Nevertheless, Arthur resigned as a BLP party leader, giving way to former Deputy Minister Mia Motley.
Owen Arthur was married to Julie Ann Price on 12 August 2006. They have one daughter named Leah.
Owen Arthur is the holder of the José Martí Order, Cuba’s highest national honor.
Last Modified: October 7th, 2020
Published: June 2nd, 2019
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