Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES)

A Selfless Crusader for Statistics for Development

A Personal Tribute to Mr. Dave Clement

Prepared by:

Dr. Godfrey St. Bernard

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In the 1960s and 1970s, Diamond Vale was a special place for children and teenagers belonging to the local baby boom generation.  In those early days of this prized Trini community, several families with at least three children thrived, prospered, and co-existed in ways that have spawned vivid memories of a place and time.  The Clement family was one of the many families that I am referencing here.  I, too, came from a similar family and while I grew up on Sapphire Crescent, the Clements lived five to ten minutes walking-distance away in Jade Gardens.  I met the Clements, one by one, whether as a student in Trinity College Moka, on the Diego Martin bus commute to Diamond Vale during afternoons and evenings, football clashes between Jade and Sapphire, and of course, the legendary Vale house parties of the 1970s.

Dave was the last among the Clements that I would eventually meet during the 1970s. I met the others prior to meeting Dave. In fact, I formally met Dave in 1979 while being apprenticed as a young statistician as I transitioned between my second and third years as a student at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago.  In those days, it was customary for young upcoming professionals to taste the spirit of work in progressive enclaves such as the CSO which at that time, was characterised as an entity displaying professional pride and glory in serving the development needs of Trinidad and Tobago during the 1960s and 1970s.  Needless to say, Dave was among a new breed of young professional statisticians who were recruited in the CSO during the mid-1970s.  There was never any doubt in my mind that each of the statisticians including Dave, was progressive, intellectually gifted, patriotic, and at the same time, destined to serve the Caribbean Region and the world at large.

As a young apprentice, I was privileged to have met Dave and other statisticians such as deceased Arthur Bruce, deceased Peter Pariag, Ms. Alberta Titus, Ms. Shirley Christian Maharaj, Ms. Carol Salim, among others who worked as expert National Accounts Statisticians.  By virtue of their astute mentorship, professional conduct, and love for official statistics, I was convinced that I should follow a lifelong career in official statistics.  Upon graduating from UWI in 1980, it was not surprising that I would have been assigned to the CSO as a young statistician and fully concretise a fully fertile professional relationship with Dave, a relationship that persisted until his death on Saturday 24th September, 2022.  Upon joining the CSO, Dave was a big brother.  He was a nationalist, progressive in his carriage, competent as a statistician especially in the domain of national income accounting, and undoubtedly, one of the most affable human beings one can ever encounter in life.

I served in the CSO as a statistician between 1980 and 1987.  Despite working as a statistician with responsibility for social and demographic statistics, I would always consult Big Brother Dave for his wise counsel on countless matters whether pertaining to subject-matter technicalities in my own areas of work, capacity-building initiatives, employee relationships, outreach and the dissemination of CSO products, and access to equipment to service the technical needs of the CSO during the early 1980s.  That period was characterised by a technological revolution that introduced desktop computers and a range of desktop software applications deemed relevant to the operations of national statistical offices.  My memory of Dave places him at the forefront of such advancements.  He was a keen advocate for modernising statistical activities within the CSO in response to the technological revolution that occurred in the mid-1980s.  Until his death, he still embraced those vibes that propelled that progressive orientation to respond to contemporary movements characterised by a massive data revolution and a movement towards BIG data.  

During my seven-year sojourn as a statistician in the CSO, I remember Big Brother Dave as a consummate statistician who would leave no stone unturned in his quest to produce valid estimates of critical national income accounts.  He was actively involved in capacity-building and a host of outreach activities hosted by the CSO.  A number of such initiatives come to mind.  The first was a series that featured statisticians leading seminars in the use of statistical techniques akin to regression analysis, experimental designs, survey sampling methodology, time series analysis, and principal components analysis.  In those days, there were a number of young statisticians who embraced extraordinarily high professional standards and would take responsibility for delivering seminars.

The second initiative was a seminar series entitled the Staff Seminars Organising Committee (SSOC).   I do remember deceased Brian James and Big Brother Dave leading the charge, ably supported by David Thomas, Martin Farrell, Philomen Harrison, and yours truly, and realising the SSOC Sessions under the auspices of the CSO.  The SSOC won the approval of deceased Leo Pujadas (former Director of CSO) and deceased Ruth Rawlins (former Senior Statistician) and brought visibility and recognition for the CSO.  Dave was a leader among a young cadre of visionary young statisticians who recognised and exalted critical linkages between the statistical activities of the CSO and development policy agendas during the 1980s.  Thus, it was this linkage that became the catalyst for invited and contributed papers formally presented during periodic SSOC Meetings.

The third initiative was the CSO In-Service Statistic Training Course that was administered under the auspices of the CSO in Trinidad and Tobago and organised to build capacity among technical officers who were assigned to support the work of statisticians.  National income accounting was a module within the economics component of that training initiative and Dave was among the principal resource persons who would facilitate sessions especially during the 1980s.  Dave’s engagement as a facilitator in this training initiative enabled him to interact with statistical officers from other allied public sector departments in Trinidad and Tobago as well as officers from national statistical offices in every CARICOM Member State.  Indeed, this was another initiative that signalled the impact and reach of the CSO during the 1980s.  Through such exposure, Big Brother Dave was able to gain additional recognition and demonstrate his expertise as a statistician.  It was this kind of exposure that would have added to his ascent as a regionally and I dear say, internationally renowned statistician who won great admiration, love and respect from his colleagues, whether home or overseas.

Apart from earning a Bachelor of Science in Economics in 1975, Dave was the holder of a Master of Science Degree and was the recipient of expert training in national income accounting statistics through the International Programs Center in Washington, DC.  This was one of a number of programmes organised under the aegis of the United States Bureau of Census, providing high level, cutting-edge training principally to professionals in national statistical offices across the globe.  Participation in these workshops and seminars strengthened Dave’s professional capabilities and rendered him fit to operate in a well-respected and revered advisory capacity for colleagues across CARICOM Member States and even beyond the CARICOM Region.  This wealth of expertise did not go unrecognised as Dave was a principal focal point in the delivery of lectures to undergraduate students pursuing courses relevant to economic statistics in the Department of Economics, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.  For almost twenty years, if not more, Dave has been a lecturer serving countless cohorts of undergraduate students within the Department of Economics.

The first phase of my professional encounter with Big Brother Dave ended in 1987 when I left Trinidad and Tobago to pursue graduate studies.  I returned home in 1993 and immediately assumed duties as an academic in the Institute of Social and Economic Studies (ISER), known today as SALISES (Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies).  The second phase began upon my return home in 1993.  I left a desktop computer in Dave’s safekeeping in 1987 and upon my return, he visited me to return the computer which by that time had become entirely obsolete.   The camaraderie that we always shared was rekindled and on numerous occasions we would spar and share notes regarding our love for official statistics and our desire to facilitate its greater reach and appreciation.  In the 1990s, we were in professional arenas where we could advance that mission despite the fact that he prevailed in national income accounting and I prevailed in social and demographic statistics.  We continued exchanging ideas and building upon the camaraderie that had been forged in the early-to-mid 1980s.

During the 1990s and the early years of the new millennium, I can identify some moments when I fully admired and hailed Dave’s achievements and phenomenal intellectual contribution to advancing development agendas.  Specifically, I remember an intellectual movement spearheaded by Dr. Vanus James and supporting capacity-building initiatives of the Policy Research Development Institute, an arm of the Tobago House of Assembly.  The movement drew upon expertise from Dr. Shelton Nicholls, Dave Clement, and yours truly.  I remember participating in high-powered intellectual meetings in conference rooms in Tobago and witnessing Dave’s expert contributions on matters pertaining to statistical methodologies that could have informed the estimation of economic activity in localised settings in Tobago.  Dave was always spot on and second to none with respect to the intellectual depth of his discourses and the presentation of his arguments to support his positions.  Also, I remember when he was assigned to the Turks and Caicos Islands to commence activities to establish a national statistical office there.  That was indeed a monumental task that Dave was able to address and deliver with distinction.  The National Statistical Office in the Turks and Caicos Islands continues to thrive today and as I have been reliably informed by one of its managers, its vision and mission continues to be informed by insights gleaned from the contribution of Mr. Dave Clement.

During the early years of the new millennium, Dave became heavily involved in governance arrangements revolving around the production and consumption of official statistics at national and regional levels.  With regard to the former, he functioned as the Director of Statistics in CSO, a position that also gave him administrative and technical oversight over the 2011 Round of Population and Housing Census.  With regard to the latter, Dave actively participated in the annual meetings of the Standing Committee of Caribbean Statisticians (SCCS) and served in a number of its sub-committees.  His numerous roles in this august body included mentorship and advice to a younger generation of statisticians coming of age in the Caribbean Community.  Dave has always been a fierce champion for training the next generation of statisticians and professionals who are likely to use statistics to facilitate activities in development realms.  Not surprisingly, he was instrumental in offering advice and wholeheartedly supporting my efforts to realise the Master of Science in Development Statistics in SALISES, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.  Although the programme was established in 2008, it was not until 2010 that Mr. Clement embraced the role of lecturer in several modules of a course entitled Elements of Official Statistics, a role that he has upheld over the years until his passing.

While Dave was not a member of the Task Force that was commissioned to facilitate the framework for establishing the National Statistical Institute of Trinidad and Tobago, he contributed indirectly based upon the invitation of members who trusted his valuable insights and felt that he was capable of adding value to this Project.  Dave willingly obliged in keeping with his selfless desire to advance    national and regional causes geared towards progressive development agendas.   His desire to facilitate progressive developments in statistical activities regionally continued to exist even beyond his mandatory retirement.   Major international organisations have continued to draw on Dave’s expertise for guidance and the development of novel statistical operations.  This constitutes a mark of respect for the more than 40 years of service and associated work experience that characterised the working life of Mr. Clement.  He was among the foremost professionals endowed with the skills to chart the region’s statistical development in the 2020s and beyond.

The Caribbean Association of Professional Statisticians (CAPS) is a regional entity established principally by official statisticians from across the Caribbean Region.  Dave and the deceased Sean O’Brien were instrumental in the establishment of this professional association and establishing its administrative home-base in Trinidad and Tobago.  In January 2020, CAPS embarked on a mission to establish a scholarly journal showcasing research and practice relevant to statistical activities that impact approximations of reality in Caribbean societies.  This resulted in the commissioning of a journal entitled the Journal of the Caribbean Association of Professional Statisticians (JCAPS).  I have been privileged to have acted in the role of Chief Editor of the Journal’s Editorial Board, also consisting of Mr. Lance Busby (Trinidad and Tobago), Mr. Iwan Sno (Suriname), Mr. Sean De Boer (Curacao), Mr. Abel Dasylva (Canada), Mr. Kevin Sears (Jamaica), Ms. Philomen Harrison (Trinidad and Tobago), and Ms. Belinda Henry (Guyana).

In late 2020, the Editorial Board established a Publications Committee and Dave was recommended by the board members to chair the Publications Committee consisting of an expert group of international statisticians.  The role of the Publications Committee is to permit the double-blind review process of the journal and ensure that submissions are suitable and ready for publication.  Thanks to Dave’s leadership and guidance, the first issue of JCAPS was released in April 2022, a feat that he was righteously proud of and expressed his pride in no uncertain terms.  We, the members of the Editorial Board salute Dave for his leadership and guidance and all who served the Publications Committee for their dedicated service towards realising the publication of the inaugural issue of JCAPS.  JCAPS will continue to have life and Dave will be immortalised in subsequent publications.

Dave was an alumnus of St. Mary’s College, Port of Spain, Trinidad.  I am aware of the respect that Dave demonstrated towards St. Mary’s College and rightly so.  However, as an alumnus of Trinity College, Moka, Trinidad, I am also aware that Dave was seriously allied to his Trinity College Brethren to the extent that he was granted honorary status among those alumni of Trinity College.  On behalf of all of Dave’s Trinity College crew, I wish to express our deep-felt condolences.  In addition, Dave has served SALISES and other arms of The University of the West Indies with distinction.  On behalf of SALISES in St. Augustine, SALISES Regional, and the University of the West Indies, I also wish to convey our condolences on the loss of a selfless crusader for advancing development causes.  I also wish to express condolences on behalf of the Editorial Board of JCAPS and especially express our sincerest gratitude for his earthly passage and contribution to the journal.  On behalf of my own family (Patricia, Asha, Kristen, Heather and Alethea) who all knew and respected Dave, I wish to express our deepest condolences. 

All condolences are directed towards family members, professional colleagues, and close friends of the late Dave Michael Clement.  Despite your grief, I pray that you be comforted by the exemplary life that Dave lived and the overwhelming contributions that he humbly made in advancing the cause of humankind.  In particular, condolences are directed to Dave’s surviving relatives - his mother, siblings, daughters, in-laws, grand-child/children, and other relatives.  As a cultural ambassador, Dave served the steel band movement and in particular, the Birdsong Steel Orchestra with distinction.  Condolences are also conveyed to Dave’s Birdsong family.

Big Brother Dave, you were a positive force in my life and I have always treasured the positive vibes that I received through our earthly interaction.  You are now gone but will never be forgotten. You walked well Big Brother Dave.  Now, you are reunited with Claire and your souls will continue to receive heavenly blessings.

Rest In Peace Big Bro from D’Vale

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