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SIM Box Fraud in Ghana: The Way Forward

SIMBox Fraud

Introduction

Cybercrime and cyber-fraud activities are on the rise in recent times. SIM Box fraud is just one of the ways cyber fraudsters earn quick money. It has become a very important area of cybercrime in the telecommunications sector in Ghana. This article touches on the nature of SIM Box fraud, how it works, its effects, and some control mechanisms in Ghana.

SIM Box Fraud and How It Works

The SIM Box fraud generally is a technical concept which is implemented to reroute or bypass international traffic channels from one country to a SIM Box device in another country. The victims are mobile users who receive calls from abroad. When someone receives a call from abroad and the recipient sees a local phone number on the phone screen, then it means that call was routed through a SIM box.
Subscriber Identity Module (SIM)-box is a device with several ports for SIM cards. The name SIM BOX was derived from an electronic device which has several ports for SIM cards. The entire box could hold between 100 to 1000 SIM cards. We use the diagram below to explain how SIM Box fraud works.

 

 

 

The flow of international and local call traffic. 

When a caller initiates a call in country A, the call is carried through the internet (also known as voice over IP- VoIP), the caller will be redirected (rerouted) through the SIM Box to the recipient in B Ghana. The call appears like a local call to the recipient in Ghana.

How the Fraudsters Make Money

SIM Box fraud is a lucrative business because the fraudsters receive the international charges for the unapproved calls. The network operator whose SIM cards were used to terminate the calls in Ghana only get paid for a local call rate because the call was rerouted through a local SIM card. Most people ask how these fraudsters get paid for their criminal activities. For instance, if a caller initiates a call in country A (in above diagram), the person pays $0.88 to the network operator in country A. The network operator keeps $0.63 and pays the international traffic carrier $0.25. The international traffic carrier keeps $0.06 and pays $0.19 to the local network operator in Ghana. The local network operator keeps $0.13 and pays $0.06 to the destination country (National Communications Authority -NCA for Ghana). If the international traffic is routed through a SIM Box, the $0.19 will go to the fraudsters who will then pay a local call rate to the network operator in Ghana.

Causes of SIM Box Fraud

Many SIM Box fraudsters have been arrested and prosecuted, but the activities are on the rise.
Besides the huge financial gain in the business, there are other two reasons for the surge and persistence of this type of fraud in Ghana. The first is the use of pre-paid SIM cards which is commonly used by the fraudsters. Their ownership and address are much harder to trace compared to the easily traceable post-paid SIMs. Secondly, the problem is prevalent in countries where the incoming international traffic rates are high. These are the identified areas which entice SIM Box operators to be firmly rooted in the business.

Impacts of SIM Box Fraud Activities

SIM Box fraud has created serious privacy challenge to the users and local government-especially where (local) governments want to know who made certain calls to whom and from where. The extent of revenue loss to SIM Box activity is so huge and it has been classified among the top 5 emerging threats to in the telecommunications industry. Cellular network operators lose about 3% of the annual revenue due to fraudulent and illegal services. Juniper Research estimated the total losses from the underground mobile network industry to be $58 billion in 2011. Ghana has experienced several SIM Box fraudulent activities since 2010 and it is estimated that Ghana has lost close to $100 million.

SIM Box Fraud Control Mechanism

The NCA must sanitize the communication industry as a preventive measure to deter fraudsters from having pre-registered SIM and provision of fake personal data for registration. This, if implemented properly, may reduce the incidence of SIM Box fraud. NCA must also ensure that the network operators implement an efficient registration mechanism to commence the SIM registration as soon as possible. Additionally, the $0.19 international call and network operator’s rates are too exorbitant (attracting criminals) and must be reduced. Ghanaian network operators must reduce the rate of $0.13 to $0.06 to discourage SIM Box fraud activities.

Owusu Nyarko-Boateng, ICT Expert (Member: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

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Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Stewardship

There is the need to appreciate the urgency for international co-operation in policies and contribute in actions that protect our common heritage, the Environment.

A  ‘Statement on the Environment’ by the Canadian Bishops Council in April this year (2013) buttresses the fact that the ‘Environment’ continues to be a subject-matter of international discussions for over forty years now. The new day-by-day consciousness about the issue is quite symbolic of the magnitude of the problem.

According to the news report, the Prelates urged the faithful not only to develop an awareness of Environmental problems, but to appreciate the urgent need for international co-operation in policies and contribute in actions that protect the common good.

The Environment is the physical milieu in which human existence is possible. It comprises the elements of landmass, soil, water bodies as well as the sub-soil and ocean deeps. The envelope or canopy of air and various gases that constitute the Atmosphere are also very important factors of the Environment.

Concern over the state of the Environment continues to be heightened since the 1972 UN Conference on the Environment held in Stockholm (Sweden). Several other events have taken place elsewhere to deliberate on ‘Climate Change’ and related phenomena. During the sessions of the International Conferences on the Environment – namely the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), the 1997 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Kyoto (Japan) etc., – a number of relevant Agreements were made. To-date, more of such documents still emerge for the management and resolution of Environmental challenges.

In 2009, for instance, a UN Global Climate Debate dilated on the thorny issue of Climate Change, which is contributing to the economic decline, social disruption and displacement of population in some regions of the world.

Extreme weather conditions negatively impact on human health and occupations. Such potentially fatal consequences can be reduced by appropriate legislation or regulations on the use of renewable energy resources, and strategies for improved surveillance. The situation calls for environmental-friendliness of manufacturing processes and products, sustainable protection and exploitation of natural resources, Environmental and Consumer Protection.

Globalization and Regional Economic Integration or Unions have thus enhanced collaboration in the development and implementation of various Technical Regulations, Laws, Legislative Instruments, Policies and Rules as they impact on the Security, Health and Safety of Consumers. Due to an increasing involvement of the different Stakeholders in the formulation of good regulatory practices, Technical Agreements have become extremely important in the promotion of Sustainable Development, in the quest to serve people’s needs.

The two concepts, ENVIRONMENT and STEWARDSHIP, are not just closely related, but inextricably linked to draw our attention to the critical situation in Environmental Protection and Preservation. Environmental degradation is often related to the rising spread of poverty. The subject involves the need to monitor, control compliance to laid-down regulations in order to ensure conformity, public health, safety, and comfort of Consumers or the general public.

The deterioration of the Environment resulting in irreversible Global Warming has become one of the grave concerns affecting the very basis of sustainability of the Earth and Humanity. ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP therefore equally revolves around meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Providing clean and green environment should be one of the top national priorities.

Organizations (both Governmental and Non-Governmental) and nations all over the world continue to address Environmental issues, through solidarity and collaboration in tackling structural forms of poverty. Such initiatives include safeguarding water bodies and sources, protecting flora (plant life) and fauna (wildlife). In Ghana, the concerted efforts of some Ministries and regulatory bodies in the Environmental Sector should be encouraged. These include, inter alia, the Ministries of Food and Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment, Energy, Tourism, Trade and Industry. Other related institutions include the Research-based Institutes, Councils, Authorities and Commissions.

It must be noted that many important things in life are ‘next generation’ matters such that the current generation is expected to leave a heritage for the succeeding one. Compliance to regulations challenges us to further research and adopt such technical principles and innovative processes which will suit local situations now and in the future.

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP also strikes a note of Accountability. In the Creation Story, the First Man was entrusted with the virgin Garden of Eden with all the fullness thereof. The Almighty Creator charged Adam to tend it and take care of it. From this injunction, we are supposed to use very carefully both the material and non-material resources surrounding us.

‘Stewardship’ connotes the magnitude of responsibilities ascribed not only to Governmental Ministries, Departments and Agencies, International Organizations and Non-Governmental bodies, to guarantee the judicious use of both renewable and non-renewable natural resources. The onerous tasks carried out by such bodies should be complemented by personal commitment on the part of every individual, to abide by laid-down regulations.

Looking around, we are engulfed with filth all over the place. The use of plastic, non-combustible materials has added to the problem. Our challenges are compounded by unacceptable habit among some of us to fill drains and litter the beaches with solid waste.

Massive destruction of the vegetation and top-soil is taking place in communities purported to be endowed with gold. Farm lands and even residential structures have been transformed into surface mining (or galamsey) sites with careless abandon, and sometimes under threats at gun-point. Drinking water sources or bodies have been polluted with chemicals used in the illegal mining.

Some fire outbreaks during the dry seasons have been traced to human carelessness such as throwing away cigarette stubs without ensuring that the spark of fire in them had been crushed completely. Bush-burning, as an agricultural practice, can also get out of hands if the intended portions are not properly isolated or protected.

From the fore-going examples, it becomes very evident that we should assess how we are individually and collectively expected to handle the resources at our disposal, to ensure our continued comfort and general well-being. Our attitudes towards handling of both solid and liquid wastes in our homes, communities, workplaces and other institutions, for instance, should portray that we are responsible stewards.

In the same breadth, we should always bear it in mind that the Earth is not only our global home, but that we should consider the heritage we shall leave behind, by way of the status of the Environment and the non-renewable resources.

As we contemplate the grandeur of the Earth, we are overwhelmed by our enormous responsibility to use it cautiously. Trustees and custodians that we are supposed to be, we will be held accountable for every endowment that came our way, whether in our Stakeholder roles as individuals, community members, workers, industrialists, students or people in positions of responsibility for Environmental Management.

Anthony Kweku Annan

 

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Addressing the Barriers to Broadband Adoption in Ghana

Broadband Access

The internet has come to change how we live, play, learn and work.  In spite of this, it is estimated that about 48.3% of the world’s population is offline.  Africa has the lowest penetration rate of internet adoption of 31.2% despite the exponential growth over the last 17 years. In Ghana, internet penetration is estimated at 34% even though broadband presents opportunities that can fast track our development. The low penetration in Ghana can be attributed to a myriad of factors both on the demand side and the supply side. Chief among them include affordability, lack of infrastructure, absence of relevant content and the capacity of citizens to use the service.

In Ghana, majority of our citizens cannot afford broadband services due to the cost of the service and end-user devices.  For instance, 20GB of one service provider’s fixed broadband costs GHC85 even though nearly a quarter of Ghanaians cannot afford to spend GHC3.60 a day on food. Also, the cost of end-user devices such as laptops, tablets and smart phones are outside the reach of most Ghanaians due to very low income levels especially for our citizens in the rural areas.

In addressing the issue of affordability, there is been some initiatives from the service providers. In January, 2015 Airtel partnered Facebook to offer the internet.org app which provided locally relevant basic internet free of charge. However, Ghana needs to intensify its efforts to get citizens online.  Government through Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) must intensify initiatives to get poor citizens online through its Cyber Laboratory Programmes which seeks to provide Community Information Centres (CIC) and connectivity to schools and libraries in order to address the issue of affordability. Furthermore, reduction in import taxes of computers and tablets for educational projects especially in the rural areas can help reduce the cost of end-user devices.

Another demand side barrier is the lack of relevant content for the different segments of our society.  Relevant content, services and apps can stimulate the demand for broadband services.  It is important therefore to target the different categories of people.  Those persons who do not see the benefit of staying online, those who do not connect due to the absence of relevant content and services and those non-internet users who are high income earners.  There is also a category of our compatriots who are offline because they lack basic computer or language skills to go online.

The private, public and third sectors can assist by creating local applications and content which are relevant to citizens.  For instance, Vodafone is collaborating with Facebook and Google to register a thousand small businesses online so that they can exploit the power of social media. Similarly, the Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana has also initiated a campaign to put a thousand start-ups online by supporting them to create and manage their websites. E-commerce, e-banking and e-government services can be used to attract non-internet users who can afford broadband services.  The digitisation of the economy is a good step that will encourage broadband adoption. The relevant agencies must therefore ensure that bottlenecks associated with the delivery of online services by the Passport Office, Registrar General’s Department, SSNIT, etc. are resolved. It is also important that we explore how local entertainment can be used to stimulate demand in broadband services.

In addition to creating relevant content, the lack of ICT skills and basic computer literacy is a source of concern.  Computer literary cannot be discussed without considering functional literary. Everything must be done to ensure that more of our citizens have access to quality education. The free Senior High School programme must therefore be used to improve computer literacy even for those students from the rural areas.   In order to tackle the issue of capacity, we need to improve the teaching of ICT in our primary schools. We must ensure that every school has a well-equipped ICT lab with broadband service.  There is talk of improving our curricula at the primary school level.  It is important that we revisit the teaching and learning of ICT and improve ICT skills training in our basic schools.

Lack of infrastructure is still the most significant supply side barrier to broadband adoption in Ghana.  This includes ancillary infrastructure such power especially in the rural areas where we have the underserved and unserved populations.  Low cost and scalable solutions must be deployed in the rural areas to match the low incomes levels of inhabitants.  Public Private Partnerships (PPP) can be explored in delivering solutions such as the Loon Balloons developed by Alphabet and satellite broadband for areas that are difficult to reach.  Also, there is a need to review our broadband policy to emphasize Universal Service Obligations (USO) and specific connectivity targets on how the whole country can be covered with broadband service.  GIFEC as a Universal Service Fund (USF) must be positioned strategically to provide infrastructure that will facilitate the introduction of broadband by the service providers in rural areas.  Finally, the digitisation of Ghana’s economy must have universal broadband provision as its foundation. The programme must be used to stimulate demand for broadband service especially in the rural areas.

Broadband offers so many benefits that will inspire innovation, create new opportunities and change lifestyles.  With good broadband, professionals in the urban areas can work remotely so that people in the rural areas can tap into their expertise.  Also, e-learning, e-health and e-government offers prospects for accelerated development.  Furthermore, we exploit opportunities in the area of entertainment especially online radio, television, gaming and music. E-commerce will change the way business is done in Ghana. Finally, broadband offers the solid platform for emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT).

 

Kuuku Sam, ICT Policy & Research (Member: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

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TIME WITH THE PRESIDENT…

#President Nana Addo

#KWAME

Congratulations first and foremost Mr. President for appointing the former Attorney General who happens to come from the camp of the opposition to occupy such a delicate portfolio. It is a politically correct decision, wise by all standards and a way of frustrating your opposition.

#THE PRESIDENT:

Your complement is well noted Kwame. I am equally well informed of your consistent interest in national issues. Keep the good work up. What motivates you to do this anyways?

#KWAME:

The Rot in the system Mr. President. A mere sight of fat bellied super rich hypocritical politicians with insatiable greed amidst a poverty stricken citizenry, substandard leadership full of managerial incompetence, consistent friends and family governance amidst high rates of unemployment, disheartening acts of injustice perpetuated against the layman as well as the proliferation of abominable Corruption. I am allergic to them.

#THE PRESIDENT:

Great. The issue of corruption is very worrisome and of delicate concern to me particularly that of the NDC. You saw how they presided over a government that bloated a budget just to draw pictures of ex-Presidents on vehicles, and also instigated those inhumane SADA- GEEDA frauds and so many others? Martin Amidu will soon probe everything fishy by those past corrupt government officials and bring them to book.

#KWAME:

Yes I saw all that with all humility Mr. President. But I don’t think corruption is peculiar to one administration. Your infantile government is equally tagged already with corruption allegations ranging from the insignificant Ghc1,800 each fine for a first degree felony of court evasion by the delta force, the BOST and PURC saga, a hooping Ghc800,000 for a website, 100,000 for seat and many more. Will the special prosecutor deal with them too?

Secondly, what is your definition for “past corrupt government officials”? Does it start from the time of the first Democratic government till date or the focus is just on the John Dramani Mahama lead administration?

#THE PRESIDENT:

The definition of past corrupt government officials? I will leave that for the right office to determine. The Ghc800,000 for a website I was told is a “typographical error”, the BOST, PURC, and delta force cases are stories for the gods. As for the 100k for seats, “I am not aware”. A committee is looking into that so let’s leave it aside. If I seek your opinion on who to lay off in my government, who will you suggest?

#KWAME:

I will humbly suggest the person (s) who advised you to make that statement at the sod cutting for the one district one factory at Ekumfi–“it is envisioned that 51 districts will actually start the implementation of their enterprises (factories) by the end of the year (2017)”. I personally think he, she or they should have prompted you to organize a press conference or seize a good opportunity to explain to Ghanaians why you couldn’t even build a retail shop talkless of a factory before the end of 2017. That would have helped you to lay issues to bare and provide answers to all the ‘WHY’ questions to clear the doubts of the numerous hungry unemployed graduates awaiting that initiative. It equally shows a sign of respect for the intelligence of the common voter and I strongly believe the good people of Ghana will appreciate and accept you for telling them the truth than keeping mute on it.

#THE PRESIDENT:

“Wo aka Asem oo”! That was the exact thing that came to mind–to address all those issues in my end of year message but I thought they may misconstrue the idea and take me for a liar. I equally thought of the propaganda the minority will make out of it but it’s not too late anyways. Put that aside and let me ask my last question.

If an election is scheduled for next year and I ask you to persuade Ghanaians, who will you suggest they vote for?

#KWAME:

I will advise them to either vote for “a collation of the minor parties (that is if they’ll ever consider that) or find something better doing with their lives on that faithful day. The NDC and NPP are cousins who deserve to be alienated from anything politics in this country if we’re indeed serious about development.

#THE PRESIDENT:

But the current research by Dr Bossman, a lecturer from the political science department of the University of Ghana predicted a win of approximately 52 percent for the NPP. What do you say about that??

#KWAME:

Mr. President, Dr Bossman is a staunch member of the NPP lecturers’ caucus which simply implies the celebrants of that finding are only dancing to a music composed by a gentleman to adjudge his mother’s soup. A research conducted on a sample size of five thousand people out of a population of about thirty million with not even a clearly defined method is a layman’s research. Generalizing that result will be the lamest mistake to be committed by any scholar. Per my opinion, such researches only end up granting the beneficiary a false hope to put him/her in a “COMFORTABLE LEAD”. If you need further explanation on that statement, ask the NDC. They will school you on how devastating the effect of that statement can be.

#THE PRESIDENT:

“Comfortable lead” sounds familiar though. I understand exactly where you’re coming from and I will do the necessary by reminding my people to work hard and curb the dire effects of that pronouncement. Kwame, let’s call it shot. I have some ministerial reshuffling to do. I will invite you on a later date…

#KWAME:

I doff my hat for your time Mr. President. There’s no need catching feelings if my response sounds a bit “irregular”. Speaking to Presidents is typical of my dreams anytime I eat Daavi’s kenkey before sleeping on my crooked bed. I will still send a narrative of the dream to your inbox anyways. Regards!!!

 

Richard Kwame Krah

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25 Years of the 4th Republic of Ghana

25 years of the 4th Replic of Ghana

Permit me to crack down the entire Ghanaian republican concept in a layman’s language for a common understanding so you can better comprehend my perception of the decision of this government to celebrate the day. The rationale behind the concept is advocacy for a stable democracy–one that gives sovereignty to the common man to decide who should or should not govern him/her. A democracy that promotes peace and security, erases one party system and as well do away with centralization of power as was the case in the history of Ghana.

Our leadership was not different from the usual African brutish way of ascending power through the formation of a conspired military to force governance down the throats of citizens but the ratification of the 1992 constitution as the supreme law of the nation which clearly spelt out the processes of power allocation, the structures of government as well as the regulations and eligibility criterion for political representation which altered that perception and boosted the fortunes of the republican advocacy and successfully dealt with imperialism.

Though very alien to the then Ghanaian political system, we successively incorporated this seemingly liberating concept into our political mode of operation. The democratic agenda was spiced by the admirable peaceful power transfer from the then “dictator”, Jerry John Rawlings and the effect trickled down to the Nana Addo lead administration that is deciding to celebrate the concept.

Initially, I did not in any way dispute the 4th republic celebration idea because a peaceful power transfer is worth it but I’ve receded on that decision after getting a bigger picture of the whole concept. They forgot to see the rots that accompanied the transfer. Aside the peace that we craved for, the transition equally evolved negativities hence choosing to waste resources to celebrate at the expense of highlighting these flaws is a miss. Along with the transfer was a bunch of leadership flaws, an intrinsic corruption, broad day light thievery and political selfishness.

Leadership in our Country has become more of “vote me to steal” than “vote me to serve”. The democratic concept was misconstrued hence getting abused by our politicians.

In my candid opinion, this milestone should have been treated as a national day of dialogue–a day on which we deliberate on the chain of corruption that has engulfed our political terrain. A day on which we run a retrospect of the deficiency in policy implementation since the first republic, correct our mistakes for a better Ghana certainly not a day for merry making which may end up seeing a common budget for the celebration being bloated to double our plights.

The day is far gone, the celebration is almost done, but permit me to remind the leadership of the Ghanaian 4th republic of the achievements of the 4th republic of France:
“The French 4th Republic saw an era of great economic growth and the rebuilding of the nation’s social institutions and industry. It played an important part in the development of the process of European integration which changed the continent permanently. The greatest accomplishments of the 4th Republic were in social reform and economic development. That government established a comprehensive social security system that assured unemployment insurance, disability, old-age pensions, and proper health care to all citizens”.

As you celebrate, deliberate on the fact that the French 4th republic for example, did not party those achievements into being. They adopted prudent economic policies, put up anti-corruption mechanisms and served whole heartedly to produce those results I have highlighted.

Richard Kwame Krah

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Ghana: Political Irresponsibility and Tax Evasion

Tax evasion in ghana

You know, anytime I hear people blame tax evasion fully on law enforcement, I am always tempted to believe they intentionally overlooked the reality or they probably are oblivious of the numerous causative factors to that effect. If the leadership attitude or that of the enforcers or power brokers themselves is questionable, it makes it difficult to take on defaulters or persuade them to buy into any “anti-tax evasion” campaign which eventually makes the law seemingly useless.

Let me establish categorically that Richard Kwame Krah is not in any way against this particular initiative but I must admit, I fear it may end up being a complete waste of first, the media space, the viewer’s time, as well as the tax payers money and in actual sense end up projecting a message more of a deliberate attempt to temper with the goodwill of Ghanaians than what it is intended to achieve if utmost caution is not observed by the political front to deal with its reckless attitudinal dynamics.

You know, it is ridiculous sometimes how politicians engage in all magnitudes of open financial malfeasance and corruption suggestive mannerisms which end up damaging their own political portfolio with a negative public opinion and in turn stage these sort of campaigns. The actual effect they intend to achieve anytime they implement such self-implicating initiatives baffles me a lot. Do they in anyway purport to reap a faithfulness they failed to plant?

Average Ghanaian politicians always make things difficult for themselves. You don’t need a PHD in human relation to understand that a decision made by a people motivated by negative impression through glare acts of unfaithfulness is very difficult to overturn. See, humans are already deviants by nature and are actually having that inner urge of rebellion due to biological predispositions. If you give them room to add a sense of financial insecurity to this already existing nature, it will be very difficult to regulate them.

You can’t take out the fact that there’s a direct relationship between political irresponsibility and tax evasion. It is very discouraging to offer if you are well informed of a wastage through a deliberate loot and share at the receiving end of your hard earned money. If you think a citizenry will cheaply grant you a spontaneous consensus on an issue of this calibre with a fair idea of the rots you are harbouring in mind, then I’m afraid you really need to rethink that perception.

In saner climes, no single individual will ever try or want to invest his resources into a wasteful venture. The best way to persuade a people to entrust their money into your hand is to demonstrate trust beyond all reasonable doubts not creating a system that promotes irresponsibility. You run a reputable government and a political front with an enviable sense of integrity not one that frowns on probity and accountability.

If you run a genuine poll out of a hundred, ninety-nine percent of the Ghanaian citizenry will synonymously perceive the concept politics as corruption and associate politicians to that effect not because they misconstrued the concept but because they have audience and witnessed the “unfaithfulness” of the political class (irrespective of any political divide).

Taxes build nations undoubtedly same way political behaviour equally speak volumes and determines the direction of social contract and citizenry consensus. Do the necessary by working on your public image first and actually change your political attitude before you disturb the populace with the commercials else you will only end up pouring water on stones and equally waste the scanty revenue you were able to accumulate.

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