Statement on the passing of former Prime Minister Owen S. Arthur
By President – Lydia McCollin
July 30, 2020
Brilliant Economist and Caribbean Icon
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados (ICAB) is saddened by the recent passing of former Prime Minister, Professor the Right Honourable Owen Seymour Arthur. A brilliant and respected economist, Professor Arthur was a supporter of regional integration and the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, and was held in high regard not only in Barbados, but regionally and internationally.
Professor Arthur was Barbados’ 5th Prime Minister, and holds the distinction of being its longest serving Prime Minister to date. Under Professor Arthur’s stewardship, Barbados made significant economic strides, with unemployment going from around 23% when he first became Prime Minister in 1994 to around 7% in 2008 when the Barbados Labour Party was defeated at the polls. Owen Arthur will be remembered for leading the recovery of the Barbados economy from its precarious state in the mid-1990’s to relative prosperity by the end of his term of office. Some notable achievements include an investment grade credit rating for Barbados, high levels of foreign reserves, and a high ranking in the Human Development Index. Of particular interest to ICAB were the significant improvements to public financial management, which he introduced. These included the passing of a new Financial Management & Audit Act, major tax reform including the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT), and the adoption of International Public Sector Accounting Standards. During his tenure Barbados was recognised internationally as a well-run Small Island Developing State, and was described by the former United Nations Secretary General, the late Kofi Annan as a country that “punches above its weight”.
Professor Arthur had a love for the accounting profession and was always willing to give of his time to support ICAB. We fondly remember his presentation at a free public lecture as part of ICAB’s public financial education programme and 40th Anniversary celebrations in 2015 on the topic “Economic Development in Barbados – Lessons from the Past and the Continuing Search for Solutions”. He also made a technical presentation as part of the ICAB Annual Tax Update Seminar in 2017 on the topic “Assessment of the Impact of VAT on Barbados 20 Years Later”. The 2015 event at which he spoke had the largest attendance of any of ICAB’s public lectures, which is testimony to the high esteem in which Professor Arthur was held by a wide cross section of people in Barbados.
ICAB extends sincere condolences to his widow and two daughters on his passing, particularly his daughter Sabrina, who is one of ICAB’s very own student members. Professor Arthur will be sorely missed by Barbados, the region and beyond. May he rest in peace.