What is Keratosis Pilaris? It is hereditary and there is no cure

Tuesday, Aug 14, 2012
The New Paper

MARYLAND – Instead of hair follicles, Ms Shanyna Isom has fingernails growing out of her skin.
The woman has an unidentified illness which has baffled doctors and left her struggling to walk and perform daily chores.
Three years ago, Ms Isom suffered an allergic reaction which caused her illness, reported the Daily Mail.
The 28-year-old former University of Memphis law student has seen every possible specialist, including a doctor in the Netherlands, but still has no idea what her affliction is.
Ms Isom was in her first year at university, where she was studying criminal justice, when the mystery illness first flared up in September 2009, according to WLBT in Memphis, which first reported the story.
She had been prescribed steroids after suffering an asthma attack, and within hours, she was “itching” all over her body.
Her legs then turned black.
Doctors treated her for virtually every condition – from eczema to Staphylococcal infection – without success.
The disease has affected not only MsIsom’s skin, but also her bones and vision. Ms Isom cannot walk without a cane, and has to be helped out of bed daily.
Doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, where Ms Isom has been undergoing treatment since last year, realised that the scabs were actually human nails.
They told her family that she is the only person in the world with this condition, reported ABC News.
Her mother, Ms Kathy Gary, said: “Black scabs were coming out of her skin. The nails would grow so long and come out and regrow themselves. They are hard to touch.”
Ms Isom produces 12 times the normal number of skin cells per hair follicle, suffocating her skin. “Where hair grows, nails are growing,” MsIsom told WAFB news.

What is Keratosis Pilaris?
This condition is a disorder of the skin that is hereditary, and commonly found in people with very dry skin and/or a vitamin A deficiency. Some people can have this disorder and not know it. Not everyone that has it knows it because some people are just “carriers” if you will. The signs of the disorder are not evident in every carrier. Some people get lucky I guess!

Keratosis Pilaris is characterized by small red bumps (sometimes with white in them) that are raised on the skin like goose bumps. They are very similar looking to pimples, but they are not pimples. This is a common mistake among sufferers. Sometimes they will itch, but not usually. Here’s the main thing, the placement of the bumps. These bumps only appear in certain places. Most commonly they appear on the back of the upper arms, and the side and front of the upper thighs. It can also appear on the hips, buttocks and facial cheeks, but this is not common.

These bumps are very tiny, but annoying as ever. Not to be gross, but if you squeeze any of them, you are likely to see a hard, white substance come out of the bumps. This substance is thick and hard, and it is made of keratin protein that has gotten trapped in the hair follicles. The word “keratin” is the name for what hair, nails and the top layer of skin are made of. “Pilaris” means hair follicles. That’s where the name
Keratosis Pilaris comes from.
This condition can be very annoying, particularly for women because it poses an esteem issue. When it’s hot outside, women want to wear sleeveless shirts, shorts and bathing suits, but with this condition, we just want to cover up and hide from the world. It can be a big problem for a person’s self-esteem and it will make you very conscious of how you look. Usually this condition is not very noticeable to other people from a distance, but it can be very un-romantic when your husband or boyfriend decides to caress your lovely arms…ACK! So this is an important issue for women that have Keratosis Pilaris. I am sure there are men that are very self-conscious about it too.

What Causes Keratosis Pilaris?
As I mentioned above, this disorder is hereditary, so it is passed down from relatives like parents or grandparents. And it’s very possible you could pass it along to your children and/or grandchildren. It may not appear in any of them, or it could appear in all of them. This disorder is very strange in who it chooses to affect. I know I got this from someone in my family, but to my knowledge, no one else I know personally has this problem. So I have no idea who I got it from.

If you have this disorder, you have it for life. It will never go away or be cured, but you can treat it several different ways. There are things that can make the condition worse though. People with dry skin have a more difficult time treating the condition than those with oily skin. Also, the weather makes a difference; keratosis pilaris is worse in winter than in summer. Winter months are much drier so that makes the condition worse in most cases. Summer is usually a relief to sufferers as it brings humidity and will usually allow the condition to clear up more than usual.

How Do You Treat Keratosis Pilaris?
As I said, there is no cure, only treatments. Unfortunately the treatments my dermatologist offered me did not offer much help. After doing much reading and research on Keratosis Pilaris, I have found that most doctors will tell sufferers the same things. The most common treatment I have heard and read is to use a buff-puff or a loofah sponge, and then apply a lotion like Am Lactin or Lac Hydrin. I used these lotions and they did not work at all for me.

Usually when these do not work, doctors will prescribe a cream that has a high level of Retin-A in it. I used some of this and it did help, but not as much as I’d hoped. Even so, without insurance, this medicine can be outrageously expensive. I first used samples to see if it worked for me, and the tubes that I had were very small. So small that between applying to my arms and my legs, I could only get 2 applications out of one tube! This means I would need a tube a day. I took one of the tubes to my pharmacy and asked if the prescription tubes were larger or the same size as the sample tubes. The pharmacist said the prescription tubes were exactly the size of the sample tube. Then I warily asked him the price on one tube (which was one day’s worth of application for me and it’s to be used daily) and I almost fainted when he told me. One tube, one day’s application, was $40! Yes, you heard me right, $40! Well if I needed a tube a day, and it was to be applied every single day, there was no way I was buying this stuff. Especially if it only helped my problem…not solving it! So unless you have magnificent insurance, watch out for the Retin-A creams, they are very expensive.

After becoming very frustrated with the doctor’s recommendations and treatments, I decided to find a treatment of my own. I began to try different things here and there until I found one that has worked great for me. All people with Keratosis Pilaris may not find relief in the same treatments, but I’m going to tell you what worked for me. This has to be followed
exactly in order to see any results!
– First I use a thick loofah sponge or buff-puff on the affected areas. I do this daily and I only use Dove Nutrium Body Wash with my sponge. I have tried several moisturizing body washes, and this one has proven to be the best for me. It is a dual formula that contains a gentle cleanser and a moisturizing lotion at the same time. It works great. W
hen using the sponge, scrub as hard as you can on the affected area, and in a circular motion. Exfoliation is very important, especially since the affected areas are so dry. (Note: Dove has also recently come out with a Dove Nutrium Bar! So now I use both, and they are great. They make my skin so soft and silky, and the moisturizers are very good for the keratosis pilaris.)

– After I exfoliate with this body wash, I then apply an over the counter lotion that has worked wonders for my keratosis pilaris. Neutrogena makes this lotion and it’s called “Multi-Vitamin Acne Treatment”. I know what you are thinking; keratosis pilaris is not acne. No it’s not, but for some reason this stuff works. In my reading and research on the subject, I ran across a treatment that recommended using a moisturizer that contained a small amount of salicylic acid. This product contains both. It is full of vitamins and moisturizers that are great for your skin, and it also contains this salicylic acid. If you apply this lotion right after you have scrubbed with the Dove Nutrium, it will give you results within 2 or 3 days. It did for me!

– I also apply the Neutrogena Multi Vitamin Acne Treatment at night before going to bed. So I am applying it twice a day, once after showering and exfoliating, and once at bedtime.

– Adding a humidifier in your bedroom will also help to clear your skin. The moisture will hydrate your dry skin while you sleep at night and help in clearing up the keratosis pilaris.

– This next “treatment” is one I have found on my own and doctors do not recommend it. I am not telling anyone to do this, I am simply telling you what has worked in clearing up my skin condition. Tanning in the sun or in a tanning bed/salon. I like to tan anyway, so by trial and error I found that it cleared my skin. I started going to a tanning bed 2 or 3 times a week at first, and then dropped down to once a week. Each time I would tan for 12 to 15 minutes. That is not a lot of exposure, and it cleared my skin better than
ANYTHING else I have ever done. I still have occasional problems with my arms, but my legs cleared right up and those bumps have never returned to this day, and I have not tanned in over 6 months. So I am very pleased with these results.
Again, I am not recommending or condoning tanning or sunbathing, but I am telling you that it has helped to clear up my terrible case of Keratosis Pilaris.

Doing these things consistently has helped me tremendously, but if you miss a day, you pay! Consistency is the key.

Mobile wallets for NFC phones set to explode in Singapore

By Joy Fang – my paper
Wednesday, Aug 15, 2012

SINGAPORE – Mobile-wallet technology, which enables payments to be made using a mobile phone equipped with near-field-communication (NFC) capabilities, is generally safe and secure, industry experts said.
But, like other payment methods such as credit cards, the onus is on consumers to protect themselves, they added.
NFC – a short-range wireless-communication technology for transmitting data between a mobile device and a reader – is set to catch on here.
A consortium of companies – including DBS Bank and Citibank; M1, SingTel and StarHub; EZ-Link; and digital- security company Gemalto – announced on Aug 3 that the mobile wallet can be used at 30,000 retail points by the end of the month.
Consumers can pay for items such as meals and groceries just by tapping their phones against a reader. A phone with NFC capabilities, an NFC-enabled SIM card and a credit card are needed to do so.
Gemalto’s chief innovation and technology officer, Mr Tan Teck Lee, said consumers can install passcode protection for the mobile device, SIM card and NFC application, making the payment method “as secure as existing payment services”.
Experts say the daily limit of S$500 and cap of S$100 per transaction should minimise the impact of unauthorised transactions.
Even if you lose your phone, fear not. An Infocomm Development Authority spokesman said one can call the banks to report the loss, and they will disable the service.
An “over-the-air termination” of the payment applications on the NFC phone can also be carried out if it is still connected to the mobile operator’s network, he said.
A DBS spokesman said consumers will not be liable for transactions made after the loss of the phone or credit card has been reported.
A check with the telcos here showed that they will distribute only NFC mobile phones and SIM cards that meet standards specified by global payment- standards bodies.
An M1 spokesman said that, if an incorrect password is entered multiple times, the NFC-wallet service will be disabled and customers will have to contact M1’s customer services to re-activate it.
All information is stored and encrypted in a secure memory area on the NFC SIM card, as well as during over-the-air data transfers between the phone and reader, said Ms Yeong Mun-Ling, vice-president of business strategy at StarHub.
Upon activating the payment option in StarHub’s Smartwallet app, users must tap their device on a reader within 30 seconds, and the app will close if left idle for two minutes, she added.
Still, some have expressed reservations over the risk that such phones might pose in the event of theft or hacking.
Mr Stuart Fisher, managing director for Sophos Asia Pacific, said the digital wallet is “still in the infancy stage”. Hence, security issues concerning NFC technology “can be thorny” as the mobile-wallet ecosystem “irons out complexities surrounding data encryption, payment verification and security credentials”.
“Cybercriminals are likely to target this platform once there is a critical mass of users to profit from,” he warned.
Mr David Hall, Symantec’s Asia-Pacific regional consumer-product marketing manager, said he expects the service to be widely adopted.
“But we still have a lot of education to do with consumers…when it comes to smartphone security,” he said.
“People don’t realise that the smartphone is a PC in their pockets, and stores a lot of important information and Web passwords.”
Not only should you lock your phone, but measures such as enabling your phone to be “wiped clean” if stolen are also essential, he added.
Mr Fisher said consumers should not let their NFC-enabled phone out of their sight when making purchases, and should review bank statements carefully.
Do not place the phone in your back pocket, or cybercriminals using NFC-enabled devices may be able to skim data from the digital wallet upon close contact.
Convenience is the key to widespread adoption where later even services for payment kiosk like SAM and AXS for all government services will be added, the poor can even prepay to topup their PUB utilities bills and Internet services.
NFC payments are more secure, quicker, and more convenient for users. Two companies that could benefit in a big way from this movement are Dolby Laboratories (NYSE: DLB  ) and NXP Semiconductors (Nasdaq: NXPI  ) . NXP makes the chips used in NFC-enabled mobile devices while Dolby Labs’ subsidiary, Via Licensing, owns all NFC patents. This means big royalties anytime NFC technology is used in a mobile device.

– Contributed by Oogle.

There is scope of massive abuse of privacy on the Internet

Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Plans to increase the number of organisations that can look at records of what you do online could lead to widespread abuse of personal information, warn experts. The UK Government this week unveiled a draft list of organisations that will be given the right to request information about the web, telephone and fax lives of British citizens under the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. Civil liberty campaigners have little faith that government safeguards will be effective in policing the use of sensitive information passed to organisations not connected with law enforcement. Industry groups also warn that the technical and financial burden of complying with huge numbers of requests for information could cause problems for some firms.  
‘Massive abuse’ 
Before now under the RIP Act, only law enforcement organisations could ask for permission to look at logs of the sites people visit, who they are exchanging e-mail with and which telephone or fax numbers they call. Only police forces, intelligence services, Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue could ask communication service providers for logs of what their customers are doing. Now another 24 organisations, which include every local authority, are getting the power to request these logs. Ian Brown, director of the Foundation for Information Policy Research (Fipr), said many of the organisations being handed these powers had little or no experience of handling such confidential information. He told BBC News Online that this meant there was “massive scope for abuse” of personal information and would likely mean a huge increase in the number of requests. Before now law enforcement organisations wanting to look at communication information had to get permission from a judge. By contrast the RIP Act allows organisations that want to look at this data to get permission from their own senior managers. The government is currently drawing up rules dictating how organisations should treat this sensitive communication information. “But,” said Mr Brown, “how seriously in practice they will follow these guidelines we do not know. “Just what experience the Department for the Environment or the Office of Fair Trading would bring to this is another question.” Mr Brown also doubted that the government’s own watchdog, called the Interception Commissioner, would be able to police requests for the use of information about someone’s communication habits. “The Interception Commissioner has been under-resourced for what they are supposed to do at the moment,” said Mr Brown. “How they are supposed to oversee the use of these powers by these 20 plus government bodies is beyond me.” The Internet Service Providers Association also has worries about the extension of RIP Act powers to more organisations. “It all amounts to high costs for the industry in terms of time and money,” said an ISPA spokesman. He said ISPA was still waiting to hear from the government about financial help for members that have to collect, store and pass on data about customers. 
Agencies that collect massive amounts of data thru cookies, clicks and websites you visit including codings that is built into videos you watch, Internet gaint like Google, Facebook, Yahoo could monitor your activities and secretly target a campaign to promote a cause, even your ISP has tons of data of everything you do, I could easily influence decision making by programming my cause to everyone eg I can easily influence a campaign to program everyone to vote for Obama without anybody’s knowledge, that is the secrets of possible abuse of privacy on the Internet, there should be standard code of practice how everyone handles your data.
– Contributed by Oogle.

I am the greatest wealth creator

I am the greatest wealth creator
The creator of economic Demand
God has given me a gift
And He wants me to solve Hunger and Poverty
I can dissect any “black box”
By hitting it with inputs
And studying the outputs
To learn every secrets
Likewise know every secrets of technology
By studying it’s links and associations
To find it’s potential and missing links
Even to create new technology from it
I have created my own sets of tools
To visualise any scenerios and problems
And find solutions to any problem
No matter how difficult it is
So by testing any solutions
I already know all the answers
And I am capable of tweaking it to perfection
Even better than what a computer does
So I can create wealth for everyone
Because I know what the future lies
Although my predictions is not perfect
But with time I can build accuracy
And I can chart a path of success
To solve Hunger and Poverty for the entire world
And create jobs for everyone
To solve the imperfect markets
And create a Perfect Economy
Even fund the entire United Nations
But you need money to create money
Technology can only be converted to cash
When it hit the markets
I am not a miracle worker
So many people attack me
And try to track everything I do
Even interfering with all my works
God did not give me money
Because He wants the co-operation of everyone
To endorse what He has planned
If everyone does not co-operate
I will not be able to create wealth
If I do not succeed, nobody will be the wiser.

– Contributed by Oogle.

To Goh Chok Tong ; Solve wages, employment opportunities and flat prices for the poor

In a country publicly defined by wealth and GDP, a good number of people have only the streets to call home. The PropertyGuru’s Cheryl Tay reports on the worrying prevalence of homelessness in Singapore. Singapore is often hailed by its own government and those in business as a financial hub, seemingly immune to economic issues which plague other countries. Even as the Eurozone faces a severe sovereign debt crisis, Singapore boasts one of the world’s highest GDP per capita and continues to impress tourists and other foreigners with its infrastructure.

Of course, it would be unfair to assume that Singapore is ideal only for tourists and foreigners. The government has enforced laws to ensure that all citizens can live comfortably — public housing, in particular, is subject to a comprehensive set of rules and regulations to encourage home-ownership. Home loans, grants and schemes are available to first-timers, senior citizens and low-income households. In Parliament earlier this year, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam uttered the infamous words: “Our enhanced housing grants for lower income families are such that a family with a monthly income of as low as S$1,000 can now purchase a small flat.”
The resulting backlash was telling. In an affluent country like Singapore, where everyone is promised a roof over his head, one may not think being homeless is a major issue. In fact, former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew once proclaimed, “You go down New York, Broadway. You will see the beggars…where are the beggars in Singapore?”
But seemingly contradictory is Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivien Balakrishnan’s statement on the matter: “If you were a poor person, anywhere on this planet, Singapore is the one place where you will have a roof over your head, where you will have food on the table.”
The numbers, however, tell a different story. From 2006 to 2009, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) picked up an annual average of 85 beggars. The MCYS website states: “Begging is an offence in Singapore under the Destitute Persons Act. Singaporeans in financial distress do not have to beg. They can approach the Community Development Councils, Family Service Centres or grassroots organisations for help.”
Despite this, MCYS reported picking up 389 homeless people in 2011, excluding those it may have missed and those already in homeless shelters. International news network Al Jazeera caused a stir in 2010 when it reported on a Singaporean couple known as Samiah and Eddie, who had apparently lost their homes in divorce proceedings and were unable to rent due to government housing policies. In its video entitled Government Policies Force Some Onto The Streets, it was also alleged that tented communities in Singapore are “raided” by government authorities when discovered.
Dr. Balakrishnan disputed these findings in Parliament: “In Singapore, we have…cheap affordable rental housing as well as heavily-subsidised first-time entry into home-ownership. The people…who insist on staying in beaches and parks are not first-timers. These are people who have almost always sold their second or third flat (and) have unfortunately dissipated the subsidies and cashed them and now have run into problems.”
Whether or not Al Jazeera’s report was indeed factual is still unclear. But the statistics beg the question of just how serious the homeless situation in Singapore is.
Andrew Loh, volunteer and Editor-in-Chief of PublicHouse.sg, a website which publishes articles about social issues and significant events in Singapore, told The PropertyGuru: “There are various reasons why people become homeless, such as the inability to service their mortgage loans because of unemployment, ill-health or divorce. Whether the number will rise depends on various factors. However, the fact that National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has pledged to build some 10,000 new rental flats shows that the problem is very serious.”
Interestingly, more comprehensive statistics on homelessness in Singapore are unavailable. But according to Leong Sze Hian, Past President of the Society of Financial Service Professionals and founding advisor of the Financial Planning Associations of Brunei and Indonesia, Singapore’s homeless shelters are always full, to the point where some of their occupants are evicted.
Loh, who has worked with and reported on homeless issues, partially confirmed this. “There are only three government-funded homeless shelters in Singapore, each with a capacity of about 40 people. This is grossly inadequate, especially when many homeless families have children. I’m not aware of eviction from homeless shelters but the homeless I have come across are given three- or six-month periods of stay. After that, they are expected to find alternatives.”
Interim rental housing is also insufficient. Loh opines, “I have seen en bloc flats — such as at Tiong Bahru — rented out to foreigners and expats. Perhaps the government could reserve these for homeless Singaporeans instead.”
While many of Singapore’s homeless were from the lower strata of society to begin with, the government has itself admitted that its dependence on foreign labour has depressed wages. Furthermore, certain laws seem to work against less privileged Singaporeans. Loh said: “Some laws and regulations need to be changed, such as those for divorcees or single parents, as well as HDB’s rental policies. One of the issues we’ve encountered is that the HDB will not provide you housing if you’ve recently sold your flat. You have to purchase from the open market. With prices as they are, this is impossible for many, let alone the homeless and poor.”
Indeed, the affordability of public housing in Singapore must be called into question. One may wonder why, if HDB flats are as affordable as our ministers’ say, do many flat owners have to put their retirement savings in the red by using most of their CPF to finance their mortgages. Additionally, government measures to control home prices have not been very effective: though the median price of new homes fell three percent year-on-year in Q2, the median price of non-landed resale homes rose seven percent over the same period.
While BTO (Build-to-Order) flats are constantly being launched, with at least 20,000 to be built next year, not all prospective buyers are first-timers and not all first-timers can afford to wait for them to be built. Hence, they must look at resale flats, for which there is substantial cash-over-valuation (COV) and whose prices are ever increasing, compounding the issue of unaffordability.
As Loh succinctly puts it: “The HDB needs to be more compassionate. Ultimately, the government needs to address two issues: wages and employment opportunities, and flat prices.”
These are challenging times where the old models do not work well for Singapore anymore, the government(TH and GIC) must first be willing to invest in Singapore and it’s human capital before you can attract foreign investments by partnering with foreigners. You want a vision for the next twenty years? If you do not satisfy my first requirement, what is the use of sharig my vision for Singapore for the next twenty years? I know every technology and what will succeed to have a masterplan for Singapore, what is the use of telling you if you do not fulfill my first requirement? I have previously proven on my websites the visions which has now come true, do I need to prove myself again?
– Contributed by Oogle

Once PAP loses power in 2016, there will be no money left in Singapore

SMRT’s quarterly results brought into focus the Finance Minister’s decision to set up yet another new fund, the Bus Services Enhancement Fund, with $1.1 billion being set aside out of current spending.
Rather than set up this fund, I believe it would have been more beneficial for our  Finance Minister to have chosen to provide an annual subsidy to the bus operators. This could have incentivized them to lower costs and raise productivity. Instead, without providing any economic cost benefit analysis, he chose to set aside a huge amount, far more than the capital costs of 550 new buses that the government said it would purchase.
Of course if he was not challenged by the Opposition, the NMPs the NCMPs or his own backbenchers in Parliament to provide a rationale or any cost benefit analysis for a fund as opposed to other methods, then why would he?
It is a perplexing question why the PAP government would choose to set up so many funds.  At 31 March 2011, the following funds had been set up in addition to the Consolidated Fund, the Development Fund and the Government Securities Fund:

  • Developmental Investment Fund
  • Pension Fund
  • Saver-Premium Fund
  • INVEST Fund
  • Edusave Endowment Fund
  • Lifelong Learning Endowment Fund
  • Medical Endowment Fund
  • Eldercare Fund
  • Community Care Endowment Fund
  • National Research Fund
  • CONNECT Fund
  • Revolving Fund
  • Contingencies Fund
  • Development Contingencies Fund

While many of these funds were small their total size amounted to some $41 billion as of 31 March 2011. the setting up of funds is the preferred method of the PAP government even though a fund is not necessarily the best method for ensuring that the end user, the tax payer gets a better service in the case of SMRT or a better return on their tax dollar. Why is this the preferred method and why allocate such large sums to them from the current Budget?
I came up with some possible answers  (which I discuss in more detail below) and which explain why this article is entitled “Smoke and Mirrors in Government Accounting.”

  • The setting up of funds  appears to be a way of bringing the Overall Budget Balance close to zero and mirroring almost exactly the Net Investment Returns Contribution. $7 billion  set aside for new funds in 2012 and $7 billion in net investment returns contributions.  This is despite the fact that monies appropriated to these funds may not be spent for many years, if at all. Again this deviates from the IMF framework, which would require that these appropriations show up as part of net acquisition of financial assets. ( see  http://thereformparty.net/about/press-releases/budget-2012-part-one/ and http://sonofadud.com/2012/06/14/chesapeake-energy-and-temasek-a-tale-of-two-ceos-and-shareholder-democracy/ for details of how our accounts fail to follow IMF accepted procedure)
  • The $41 billion in the funds’ assets is a sum of money conveniently removed from the direct control of Parliament. In other words the Finance Minister  has unfettered control over their budgets and disbursements.
  • The legislation requires that these funds produce annual reports and accounts that the Finance Minister is supposed to submit to Parliament. However a preliminary inspection of Hansard uncovered no evidence that this had ever happened.
  • These funds appear to be a way of injecting capital into the statutory corporations (mainly Temasek, GIC and MAS) almost exactly mirroring the outflow from the Net Investment Returns Contributions (NIRCs). However I have not been able to discover any information as to how these funds are invested. In the Statement of Assets and Liabilities their assets are pooled with the rest of the government’s assets.  If it is indeed the case that these monies have ended up being invested in Temasek or GIC then this would seem to violate the Financial Procedures Act.
  • Finally and most seriously, if these funds are invested in Temasek or GIC, then they may be being used as a way of alleviating the stress these funds are under as a result of poor performance. In particular they ensure that cash outflow is minimal which might otherwise put pressure on the funds to sell some of their investments. If these are illiquid then there could be a considerable drop in their price. While I would hesitate before saying that there is any mismarking or overvaluation of assets we do know from the government’s own balance sheet that the performance of the sovereign wealth funds appears to have been extremely poor. I will be publishing more on this shortly.

Smoke and Mirrors
Though the original intention was to talk about SMRT and public transport, and the appropriateness of subsidies, other more important issues soon came to the fore. I will publish my  SMRT’s results as a separate post after this one.
I have already highlighted the uniquely PAP practice of setting up new funds in every Budget.  The Bus Services Enhancement Fund was not the only fund set up in 2012.  Tharman also allocated $2.95 billion to the GST Voucher Fund and $2.35  billion  to the Special Employment Credit Fund. As stated above these allocations (including a $1 billion allocation to existing Endowments) almost exactly mirror the Net Investment Returns Contribution.
This is not new. I had already pointed this out when I wrote RP’s response to Budget 2012 . I said,

It is likely that the Finance Ministry chooses the Net Investment Returns Contribution carefully to ensure that the Overall Budget Balance is close to zero.

You can read it here. (http://thereformparty.net/about/press-releases/budget-2012-part-one/)
Every year the Finance Minister is required under Article 147 of the Constitution to present an audited statement of the assets and liabilities of Singapore at the close of the preceding financial year.  In the latest statement, showing assets and liabilities as at 31 March 2011, the total amount of money that had been allocated to special purpose funds amounted to $41 billion as mentioned. This huge sum was augmented by the $7 billion allocated in Budget 2012 taking the total to nearly $50 billion (less any amounts dispersed from the funds over the last year).
This violates the principle that government spending should be subject to Parliamentary oversight and approval since the Finance Minister alone approves the funds’ budgets and expenditure. Now, if the expenditure was coming from the Consolidated Fund or the Development Fund then it would be the subject of a Supply Bill which has to be approved by Parliament. This is required under Article 148 of the Constitution.
The setting up of a new fund is not subject to Article 148 and is a convenient way of circumventing this control.
However, new funds still have to be authorised by law, as required under the Constitution.  The legislation contains the requirement that the funds be audited and the accounts presented to Parliament. I have been unable to discover any mention in Hansard of the Finance Minister presenting audited accounts or reports for the National Research or the National Productivity Fund since inception. This is despite billions of dollars having been disbursed by both funds. Also, the Finance Minister has made regular fresh allocations to these funds from the Budget since they were set up.
I have also checked for some
of the other funds. However, despite a legal requirement for the Finance Minster to present audited reports and accounts, I am unable to discover from the record when this has happened.  Therefore I am puzzled by Minister Lui Tuck Yew’s assertion in Parliament on 9th April 2012 that the Bus Services Enhancement Fund’s annual reports, like those of other government bodies, will be available to Parliament and public information.

An equally serious question is how these funds are invested.  On this point the legislation is vague, except to say that it is at the discretion of the Finance Minister. In the government’s annual statements of assets and liabilities the amounts allocated to the funds are shown as liabilities, but there is no specific earmarking of the funds’ assets on the asset side of the balance sheet. We have already touched on how the amount of money allocated to the funds for the last few years mirrors almost exactly the Net Investment Returns Contribution from Temasek, GIC and MAS. This would lead one to suspect that this is merely a bookkeeping exercise with the NIRC being matched by an equal and matching capital injection into either Temasek or GIC.
However if this is the case then this would appear to violate the Financial Procedures Act, which requires that any capital injection into a statutory corporation be by way of a capital contribution appropriated by Parliament from the Consolidated Fund by written law. This would not appear to have happened here.
Given the lack of information and the deliberate evasion of Parliamentary scrutiny, it is impossible to say with any degree of certainty whether these funds are being channelled into Temasek and GIC or another statutory corporation or whether they are held as separate investments or part of the government’s cash holdings.
If the former is the case, it is impossible to know whether they are being used as a means of indirectly shoring up returns by preventing an outflow of funds. This might force our sovereign wealth funds to sell some of their less liquid holdings, thus putting pressure on valuations and revealing an even more parlous state of affairs than the government’s own figures already show.
As I said in my letter to IMF we are being deprived of an early warning system by the PAP’s insistence on secrecy and failure to follow IMF procedure.

Any similarity to the way some of the more famous Ponzi schemes have unravelled is entirely coincidental. If I was a forensic investigator looking at a a private hedge fund or investment company I would be extremely worried. Just as I did with the IMF loan, acting as a private citizen, I will continue to press the government for transparency and accountability with the limited means at my disposal.

As my readers may know from a small portion of the correspondence that I have published, getting at the statistics takes a lot of time and repeated attempts. If anyone is abe to help by pointing to the relevant information, such as the reports which I have been unable to find, then  I would be extremely grateful.
I hope that my upcoming IMF case will at least provide a clear-cut answer as to who has the power over our monies and finally give us an answer as to what the President is actually good for?
Still Citizens themselves need to actively keep the pressure on the government to follow the proper constitutional process and rule of law and see that the executive is accountable to Parliament. We have seen recently that the PM has unfettered discretion when it comes to calling by elections. Should we also allow a system that allows the minister of Finance unfettered discretion when it comes to spending our hard-earned monies?
The PAP government has yet to make a case as to why secrecy and lack of information benefits Singaporeans. Norway for example is a model of transparency with regards to its own sovereign wealth funds. At the moment secrecy only seems to benefit the PAP not the citizen.
Kenneth Jeyaretnam

As a blogger, KJ hopes to help imagine a model for a New Asian Nation to bring about a free and fair future for Singapore. KJ is a Cambridge trained economist who could be broadly described as from the Keynesian school. He is also a successful ex-hedge fund manager and a liberal opposition politician who contested in the 2011 General Election with his party. He is currently the Secretary-General of The Reform Party. He blogs at http://sonofadud.com.

Singapore growth of 1.5 to 2.5 per cent cannot even beat inflation

SINGAPORE, Aug 8 – Singapore’s trade-driven economy is likely to grow by 1.5 to 2.5 per cent this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said today, narrowing the outlook from an earlier forecast of 1 to 3 per cent.
Lee also said in his National Day address that Singapore’s economy expanded 1.7 per cent in the first half, indicating growth in the second quarter was around 2 per cent year-on-year – below the median estimate of 2.3 per cent from economists.
The city-state’s government reported first quarter growth of 1.7 per cent.
Singapore will release detailed gross domestic product data for April to June on Friday that will likely show the economy expanded slightly on a sequential basis, contrary to initial estimates that showed a contraction.
But the outlook is weak and manufacturing activity contracted in July after two months of gains as new orders fell, the latest Purchasing Manager’s Index showed. – Reuters
So many years of milking the cow until the cow has no milk, any fool can see that Singapore is doomed except for the rich and elite, now he called on Singaporeans to support a move by the government to ensure Singapore would remain a success story in the next 20 years, what 20 years? Before 2016 the bottom 20 per cent of the poor would already starved to death, balance of the 20 per cent will be a walkover for PAP. Until PAP wakes up to the need to fatten the cow, it will draw no milk today and the next 20 years and forever. If you do not create wealth for the food chain, you will end up eating from the bottom.
Hyperinflation due to bad management policies by the PAP has already driven Singapore into a recession, if nothing is done soon, before 2016 Singapore will not be able to compete in the global arena, Singaporeans will be an outcast in their own land, everything points to a dead end for the poor, only the rich can easily relocate their monies elsewhere. 
– Contributed by Oogle.

Asia business confidence falters as China slows: CEOs survey

Saturday, Aug 11, 2012

HONG KONG – Asia has been a ray of sunshine in the global economic gloom, but a confidence survey released yesterday shows the region’s executives are starting to worry as China’s growth slows and exports sink.
The YPO Global Pulse Index for Asia declined 1.8 points to 60.1 in the latest quarterly survey, its lowest level since it began three years ago.
The pollsters at the Young Presidents’ Organisation (YPO), a not-for-profit network of 20,000 chief executive officers, said Asia’s confidence level showed a marked decline from previous years.
“During the first several quarters of the survey, Asian confidence averaged nine points higher than the global confidence index reading,” the YPO said in a statement.Terry O’Connor, chief executive officer of retailer Courts Asia and chair of the YPO Singapore Chapter, said the results pointed to slower growth for a region that has so far weathered the global economic headwinds.
“Evidence of that trend accumulated during the past several months, as China reported that second-quarter GDP growth fell to 7.6 per cent, the Singapore economy actually declined last quarter, and South Korea and Japan both cut their full-year forecasts,” he said. “Nevertheless, it is important to note that the forecast is for a slower pace of growth, not a contraction by any means.”
The Global Index dropped 4.1 points to 59.7 in the July 2012 survey, following three quarters of rising confidence.
The US recorded the sharpest drop of 5.1 points to 60. Confidence among young executives in the EU slipped 2.8 points to 52.0, reflecting the ongoing debt crisis in the eurozone.
In Asia, confidence levels ranged from a high of 70 in Thailand and the Philippines to lows of near 50 in Japan and South Korea. In China, CEO confidence “plummeted” almost seven points to the upper 50s.
The results were based on responses from 1,659 chief executive officers in the first two weeks of July, including 193 in Asia. Most YPO members are aged between 35 and 50, and to join, candidates must be 44 or younger.
Carlyle Asia Investment Advisors managing director Patrick Siewert, a 56-year-old member of the YPO’s Hong Kong chapter, said uncertainty about the drivers of future growth was “very, very high”.
“I would observe that though many industry bodies have been predicting relatively good growth rates, that is going to begin to be spotty,” he told AFP, referring to six straight quarters of slowing growth in China.
A former president of Coca-Cola Asia, Mr Siewert said the region would find it difficult to sustain a confidence premium over the rest of the world in light of soft demand from Europe and the US for its exports. – AFP