Former PM Owen Arthur called 'a visionary' in tearful tribute by Bizzy
Owen Arthur (File Photo)
The Right Honourable Owen Arthur was ‘a visionary’ whose economic foresight in the past continues to make a positive impact in Barbados’ economy today, according to Ralph “Bizzy” Williams in an emotional tribute as he remembered the former prime minister who passed away Monday.
“I am very saddened by the passing of our ex-Prime Minister Owen Arthur who eventually became a friend of mine and I had great respect for him,” stated Williams, whose heartfelt tribute was circulating on Facebook.
The businessman recalled meeting Arthur for the first time when efforts were underway to try to get permission to build the Port St Charles marina development in St Peter and there were a lot of ongoing discussions about the project.
“He eventually decided he would lock us all in the Cabinet Room, with all the Government bureaucrats. And he announced at that meeting that he was leaving the room and locking the door, and we would either come to a decision on whether the project was going to be approved or we would decide otherwise. But there was going to be no more wasting of time,” according to Williams’ recollection.
“Now that project proved to me that Mr. Owen Arthur was a visionary,” Williams stated. “Without Owen Arthur, I can honestly tell you that it would never have happened. He pushed it. He stood behind it. He took the criticism of the do-nothingners in our society who were hell-bent on blocking it and stopping it from happening.”
According to Williams, Port St Charles brought “over USD $350 million into Barbados in direct investments.” The project, developed by Williams, his brother Sir Charles Williams and Bjorn Bjerkhamn, began in 1996 and completed in 2005.
“It ended up building out 156 luxury homes there, most of them owned by expatriates who bring, we estimate about BBD $18 million a year spent by all the residents at Port St Charles in the economy of Barbados, up to now every year. That includes property tax and money spent in all sorts of other things, restaurants, taxis, rental cars, all those things in Barbados,” Williams noted.
“In addition to that, Port St Charles has been the only place that boats from all sectors of the marine community are welcomed to spend safe harbour in times when hurricanes are approaching Barbados or bad weather,” he added.
“Owen Arthur took licks from all kinds of political folks for pushing the project. And he never asked for anything in return, nothing,” he further stated.
Another personal memory shared by Williams related to being lambasted with some colorful language by Arthur after he had written the then prime minister a letter of criticism about some things. The episode, however, subsequently culminated with Arthur inviting Williams to have breakfast with him at the PM’s official residence Ilaro Court.
“I often had occasion to go to his (personal) home in search of knowledge. He would be able to explain economic stuff. And anybody who ever visited him would remember the tremendous library. The amount of information that is in his library at his home should be preserved, and kept in the archives of Barbados. May he rest in peace,” stated Williams, while fighting back tears.