Price, George (1919–)
Price, George (1919–)
George Cadle Price (b. January 15, 1919) was prime minister of Belize from 1981 to 1984 and 1989 to 1993. Acclaimed as the Father of the Nation, Price was the dominant figure in Belizean politics in the second half of the twentieth century. From 1954, when universal adult suffrage was first granted to British Hondurans, through independence in 1981, his People's United Party won every election, remaining undefeated until 1984.
Of Scottish and Mayan extraction, Price was born in Belize City, the third of eleven children of William and Irene Price. His father was an auctioneer and justice of the peace. After primary school he enrolled in the Jesuit-run St. John's High School of Belize. He narrowly escaped death in the flood-waters of a 1931 hurricane. After graduating in 1935 he enrolled in St. Augustine's College in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, to pursue a religious vocation. Graduating in 1940, he planned to go to Rome but was prevented by World War II. He returned home to work for a year before entering the diocesan seminary in Guatemala in 1941. His father's illness in 1942 forced him to end his studies and return to Belize. For the next thirteen years he served as a private secretary to Robert Sydney Turton, a Creole chicle millionaire and member of the colonial legislative council. Price accompanied Turton on frequent trips to New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
At the urging of Turton, Price entered politics in 1943 and lost his first bid for the Belize town board, or city council. In 1947 he won the first of his many political victories in his second bid for the council, on which he served until 1965, also serving as mayor of Belize City from 1958 to 1962. On the national front, Price was a founding member of the People's United Party (PUP) in 1950 and served successively as party secretary, party leader, member of the Legislative Council, member of the House of Representatives, first minister, and premier from 1965 to 1981.
Price survived charges of sedition by the British in 1957 when as part of a delegation to London he attended meetings with the Guatemalan ambassador. For his independent foreign policies, he has also withstood the opposition's charges of prosocialist views. There have been charges of corruption against members of his cabinet as well as numerous factional splits and defections within his own party.
Price was the chief architect of Belizean independence, secured in 1981. An ascetic, charismatic bachelor who attended 6:00 am mass every morning, he seemed to know virtually every family in Belize—familiarity born of dozens of trips around the country in his personal Land Rover and years of citizens' day meetings each Wednesday in Belize City, where any citizen could discuss problems personally with the prime minister. He wrote poetry and musical theater, read voraciously, and was very knowledgeable about foreign affairs.
Severe economic problems, internal party wrangling, and the feeling by a majority of Belizeans that it was time for a change contributed to a landslide victory by the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) in the national elections of 1984. Price lost his own seat, Belize North. Out of office for the first time in thirty-seven years, he spent the next five years rebuilding the PUP and the Belize Times, the party-dominated weekly newspaper. In the national elections of 1989 he lead the PUP to a narrow victory, winning fifteen of twenty-eight seats, and reassumed the office of prime minister.
Price wisely chose to continue some of the successful economic policies of his predecessor, Manuel Esquivel. However, in contrast to the large-scale foreign investment policies of his predecessor, the PUP Manifesto for 1989–1994 promoted smaller-scale investments by Belizeans in the tourist and agricultural sectors.
Following a by-election victory in January 1993 and landslide victories in local elections in April 1993, Price decided to call for an early election on 30 June 1993. However, a series of events beyond his control contributed to his government's defeat. These included a May decision by Great Britain to pull all troops out of Belize by January 1994 followed by a coup in Guatemala on May 25, which reawakened Belizean fears of Guatemalan intervention. Promising suspension of a Maritime Areas Act granting Guatemala access to the Atlantic Ocean through Belizean territory, the UDP won sixteen seats to thirteen seats for Price's PUP. Price retained his Belize City constituency and became leader of the opposition in the new parliament.
In 1996 Price handed over leadership of the PUP to his former minister of education, Said Musa, who led the PUP to a resounding electoral victory in the national elections of August 27, 1998, winning 26 of 29 seats in the House of Representatives. Price became senior minister, a post he retained until retiring from politics in 2003.
Price became Belize's very first National Hero when he was presented the Order of Belize Award in 2000. In 2001 he was honored with the Order of Caricom for his outstanding contributions to the political, social, and cultural development of the Caribbean community. On Belizean independence day, September 21, 2002, Prime Minister Musa inaugurated the new George Price Center for Peace and Development in Belmopan. Price's May 2004 nationwide tour of the country to promote national pride included teaching 1,200 students assembled in a stadium in Corozal the proper singing of the Belizean national anthem. "It's a march," he said.
See alsoBelize; Musa, Said.
Benske, John L. "George Price and Belize: The Creation of a Nation." MA thesis, University of Florida, 1990.
George Price: Father of the Nation Belize. Belize: ION Media, 2000. Available from http://gpcbelize.com.
Brian E. Coutts