Asokore: born to be a leader
Name: Asokore Beckles.
Education: University of Southampton, University of the West Indies (Cave Hill), Barbados Community College, Deighton Griffith Secondary.
Qualifications: MSc in statistics, BSc in economics, AA in mathematics and economics.
Tell us! Who is Asokore Beckles?
I am a young Barbadian statistician, economist and researcher, who wants to make a positive and meaningful contribution to my country and its people.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about the development and education of young people, the alleviation of poverty and contributing to my country’s progress and prosperity. I am also passionate about developing and collaborating on original and creative businesses.
Where did the love for mathematics, statistics and economics come from?
I originally set out to pursue a career in the legal profession, due to my love of debating. However after secondary school and on seeking advice of established professionals, I realized that in years to come Barbados would more require the skills of good statisticians and economists; and, given my desire to make a meaningful and lasting contribution to my country, I thought it best to focus my talents in these areas. In doing this, I developed a true love for these subjects, making my decision all the more rewarding.
You currently work at the Barbados Statistical Department. What exactly is your role, what does it entail, and which department do you work in?
When I began working in the Statistical Department, I was responsible for completing a joint pilot project between the Statistical and Central Purchasing departments, which included the compilation and analysis of Government procurement statistics. On completion of the project, I remained in the department as part of the trade and national accounts division.
I am the statistician responsible for the trade section, and I assist in the compilation, analysis and production of estimates of Barbados’ gross domestic product. I am also responsible for the implementation of the quarterly and annual reporting of the Export-Import Price Index.
In an effort to expand my knowledge and experience, I was recently given the opportunity to be the statistician responsible for the census and surveys division, which is known for producing unemployment statistics and retail price index.
Recently you were in Jamaica and Trinidad. Can you tell us about that?
I travelled to Jamaica to attend and present at a regional workshop hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank on the methodologies for compiling and disseminating international merchandise trade statistics. My presentation highlighted the methodologies used in Barbados.
My trip to Trinidad was to attend a workshop hosted by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC) on the implementation of the new System Of National Accounts (SNA).
With your qualifications, you could have pursued a career in the fields of finance and economics or in education as a mathematics teacher. Why statistics?
After completion of my BSc at UWI, I worked at the Central Bank of Barbados in the research department as a balance of payments officer. I gained experience in the compilation and interpretation of statistical data. While I enjoyed my work there, I found myself becoming more intrigued by the process of generating such data and being in a better position to explain data by being involved in its production.
While statistics appears daunting and complicated on the surface, numbers tell a story based on what occurs in everyday life; and it’s the process of obtaining the data and eliciting the story that excites me and equips me to become an ever better economist and statistician in the future.
Explain your involvement with the Department of Emergency Management.
As employees of the Barbados Statistical Department, we’re encouraged and trained to be damage assessment officers for the Department of Emergency Management. In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Tomas, I was a damage assessment officer for the St Michael area. Owing to the professional manner in which I performed my duties, I was made a damage assessment supervisor and subsequently a senior assessment officer.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Crow. Crows are very creative, resourceful and intelligent birds that specialize in problem solving, even under the harshest of circumstances –– which I find speaks to my character.
Which do you prefer as a mobile phone: Apple or Android? What about a computer Mac or PC?
I’ve had an Android phone for over two years, and it has worked very well for me so far. I think both phones have their strengths and I am considering switching to an Apple phone to make an informed comparison.
With respect to computers I have only ever owned a PC. I have used a Mac on multiple occasions; and while they are great, my first choice of a computer revolves around speed and gaming ability, which is why I currently own a Dell Alienware laptop.
Why did you choose Britain to pursue your Master’s in statistics?
I had always been keen on pursuing a Master’s degree in economics or statistics, and hence sought advice and did extensive research into top programmes across the world. In my research, two names were prominent, both for schools in Britain: the London School of Economics and the University of Southampton.
In comparing the two schools, I made the decision to attend the University of Southampton. I was privileged in that I received a full scholarship.
What was the experience like living and studying in Britain?
Having come from a very poor background, I relished the opportunity to live in another country and experience its culture and meet new people, as I never expected to be afforded such an opportunity. Two of the main things to adapt to were obviously the change in weather, as it was much colder, and the difference in personality of the people one interacts with every day.
Whereas Barbadians have a warm and friendly personality, and people say “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” on the street, even if you don’t know them, it took some time to accept that wasn’t the norm there.
I am a firm believer in being an active student, meaning one should not focus on academics only but become involved in a club, society, sporting activity or become a student representative, thereby making the most of one’s university experience, and ultimately becoming a more rounded individual.
In keeping with that philosophy, I was elected as the student representative for my MSc programme, and as a result I sat on boards that brought about change in how the programme was managed and allowed students to play a more significant role.
I also was encouraged to join the American football team, which was a surprise to me as I never thought it was such a widely played sport in Britain, let alone that I would be offered and opportunity to play it. The team, the Southampton Stags, made it to the finals and we also went on tours to other European countries. I made many long-lasting friendships as a result.
Having attended university in Britain, I was able to gain a new appreciation and pride in my country. While there I realized that despite my humble background, as an educated Barbadian I possessed the skills necessary to excel in my programme and compete with my counterparts from all over the world.
In essence, Bajans can achieve any goal they set for themselves, despite how far-fetched it may seem.
Having now received new knowledge as a result of my experience in Britain, I have the opportunity and responsibility to further develop the full potential of statistics in Barbados and to pave the way for others who are less fortunate, so they too may have similar opportunities to the one I was given.
You mentioned to me that after an experience during your early days in Southampton, you “stepped up your game”. What occurred?
On my first day of classes in Southampton, I had done some reading of the material and I realized that during the class discussions that my younger counterparts had read and prepared much more extensively than I had, and hence participated more avidly in the discussion, and were able to answer all the questions.
I felt very disappointed in myself, as I realized I could have been better prepared since students with much less practical work experience than I were showing me up. I therefore decided from that point that I would not be outdone, and I committed to working and studying to my full potential; and I saw the results of this change.
Did you complete a project or a dissertation for you Master’s, and what was it about?
I completed a dissertation, and due to my interest in assisting the poor and less fortunate, I chose the topic Income Inequality And Poverty with the idea of using current data to assess the factors affecting income inequality.
Over the past six years you have been involved with a research team at UWI. Tell us about that.
During my early university days, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Troy Lorde, a member of the teaching faculty at the university and recently my mentor. He offered me an opportunity to work on a project with him, which I eagerly accepted. Since then we have worked on multiple research projects, including one published paper entitled Real Pirates Of The Caribbean: Socio-Psychological Traits, The Environmental, Personal Ethics And The Propensity For Digital Piracy In Barbados.
You were involved with the Guild of Students at UWI. What was that experience like and how has it added to your development?
During my time at the University of the West Indies, I was involved and very active in a strike against the manner in which amenity fees had been implemented. I then realized that I had a passion for representing my colleagues, and one way I could really represent them and truly effect change was if I placed myself in a position to do such. With the encouragement of the student body, I ran for union committee chairman and won. I was then able to lobby for changes, which allowed for the improvement of student facilities at the university.
It was because of that experience that I knew I was definitely meant to be a leader and representative for those who are either afraid or unable to represent themselves.
It is understood you have a love for politics and national issues and development.
My interest is a love of country. I would like to think that most, if not all, Barbadians share the feeling of wanting to see this country develop and prosper. I believe in good governance, and that my knowledge, experience and age put me in a position to assist my country in achieving that goal.
When the Constituency Councils were established, they were built on the policy of good governance, and for that reason I volunteered and was appointed. We were able to assist the constituency in a variety of areas, and I was offered a second term but declined, since other opportunities arose that allowed me to make a more significant impact.
In October this year, two significant things occurred that will definitely contribute to your development as an aspiring politician. What inspired you to pursue them?
Yes, two significant things did occur: I was elected president of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) St Michael South-East branch and the president of the BLP League of Young Socialists. However, I see them more as opportunities to help others than as an aspiring politician.
I don’t want to be someone who says he/she wants change or that something needs to be done and not actually do something to make it happen. In addition, I want to set a good example for the youth, and I want to be an advocate for them. Young people have the ability to make a significant contribution to society, and I see these as avenues for me to do so.
Since you have a love for finance and economics, what three things would you do to improve our economic situation?
It must be said that there are no easy or quick fixes. However, it is understood by many economists that the three measures needed to improve the economic situation are debt restructuring, further reduction of Government expenditure and incentives for local business to increase production and sale of goods.
Growing up in The Pine and coming from humble and challenging beginnings, what advice would you give to young people?
I would advise them to dream big and never give up on their dreams. As children, we all had dreams, and as life goes on and circumstances occur, we sometimes become discouraged, lose sight of and sometimes even fall completely off track from those dreams. It is important to remember that we can overcome the challenges life gives us and become stronger.
Growing up in The Pine, there were financial difficulties and cultural and social influences which I had to overcome in order to remain focused. However, I can honestly say that without those experiences I would not be the man I am today. I would not be able to relate to many young people who are going through these same struggles, especially now in these harsh economic times.
Do you have any other interest outside of economics and politics?
I have an interest in volunteer work. I currently volunteer as a mentor for teenage boys. I also love sports. I played volleyball for the University of the West Indies and for what was them known as the Barbados External Telecommunications (BET) Club, and I played American football in Southampton as previously mentioned.
I also enjoy watching football, and I am a Manchester United fan.
Who has contributed to your success?
I credit my family, mentors and friends with my success, but must thank God for the strength and the opportunities as I consider myself very blessed to have made it where I am today –– despite my challenges.
Finish this statement, Barbados is an amazing country because . . . .
. . . Of its people. We are kind, polite, strong, tolerant, helpful, determined, hopeful and proud.
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