Local Daily News 3rd May

Buildings by Russian investors on the Costa Blanca are paralyzed as they cannot send money from their country

The restrictions on sending money from Russia to Spain and on using credit cards associated with Russian bank accounts is creating an uncertain situation for many Russian investors and home buyers who are seeing construction work on their properties on the Costa Blanca come to a standstill.

Both the president of the House of Russia in Alicante, Aleksandr Chepurnoy, and the CEO of the Finestrat Sinergy Consulting company, Darío Samaniego, have agreed to point out that one of the current problems arising from the war in Ukraine is that of not being able to send money from Russia to meet the payments for housing construction, Spanish companies are paralysing the works directly without negotiating possible solutions.

Samaniego, whose company has been working with the Russian market for 25 years, has explained that he is going to go to court to defend the interests of a client from Russia who acquired two properties valued at 1.2 million euros each and were almost paid, although after the invasion of Ukraine the building of one of the chalets has been paralyzed. For this reason, he affirms that he will file a lawsuit in court so that this Russian investor who has stopped making payments due to a situation of force majeure is recognized and that a judge rules on the matter.

This stoppage of building affects Russian clients who have invested in the construction of real estate in Altea Hills, Xàbia, Alicante, Calp, El Campello and the Cumbres del Sol urbanisation in Benitatxell, among other municipalities. The president of the House of Russia affirms that in the case of some works in El Campello it will lead to the dismissal of seven workers.

Darío Samaniego denounces for his part that there are companies that, in addition to paralysing the works, are terminating “contracts and penalising buyers with exorbitant amounts.” The founder of Sinergy Consulting laments the situation and recalls that “people who invest here are not usually in favour of Putin.”

In one of the constructions of a luxury house in Calp “the contract has been considered breached and it has been terminated without negotiating,” says Samaniego, with the aggravating circumstance that the money paid in euros has been returned to Russia and by converting it now to rubles “it is worth nothing.”

The person in charge of a real estate company in Vega Baja confirms that there is also news of works paralyzed by a promoter that works in the Russian market and that has begun to stop paying architects and other professionals.

The concern of these investors and middle-class citizens of Russia who have bought houses on the Costa Blanca does not seem to extend to the Russian oligarchs whose properties are being blocked in Spain by appearing on the list of those sanctioned by the European Union for his link with Putin and support for the invasion of Ukraine. So far, 21 properties have been blocked and Alicante, with seven properties, appears as the second province with the most intervened homes that their owners will not be able to dispose of, according to a report published by the newspaper El País. In first place is Girona with eleven properties, Malaga and Mallorca with four each and Tarragona with three. Added to these properties are four yachts and a mooring point.

Four of the seven blocked houses on the Costa Blanca belong to the Russian deputy Arkady Nikolaevich Ponomarev. This member of Vladimir Putin’s party is one of the seven Russian politicians and businessmen with properties in Spain who have been sanctioned by the European Union for having voted in favour of the resolution with which Russia recognized the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent.

The notaries of the province have an application promoted by the General Council of Notaries and the Ministry of Justice to check in just one minute the situation of Russian citizens who want to carry out any property sale transaction in Spain. In the case of raising the alarm for appearing on the European Union list of 1,093 people and 80 entities sanctioned for the invasion of Ukraine, the notary must refrain from signing, stop the operation and notify the General Council of Notaries. 

The president of the House of Russia in Alicante, Aleksandr Chepurnoy, assures that the cases of Russophobia in the province due to the invasion of Ukraine “continue to occur”, although to a lesser degree than in the first moments of the conflict. Chepurnoy is unaware of the blockade of properties owned by Russian oligarchs on the Costa Blanca and highlights that the work of the group he presides over “is to work for peace; anyone who comes here is welcome.” They have taught Spanish courses for 30 Ukrainian refugee families and the premises are also the headquarters of the Association of Immigrants from Eastern European Countries in Alicante.

60% of young people between 8 and 14 years old suffer bullying with an uptick in cyberbullying as a result of the pandemic

Far from being reduced, bullying is a growing problem that already affects six out of ten young people between the ages of 8 and 14, which is where most of these cases are concentrated, according to data from the Valencian Association against School Harassment contributed this Monday, the day against School Harassment. Figures that “may only be the tip of the iceberg and hide many more cases”, according to the general secretary of this entity, Francisco Sorolla.

Currently, in classrooms, two forms of bullying coexist. On the one hand, mistreatment through physical or verbal aggression, whose figures have remained stable in recent years according to this entity, and on the other, cyberbullying, which continues to increase due to the greater use that young people make of networks, social or instant messaging applications.

The pandemic has only aggravated the dependence of young people on these technologies and therefore increased this form of bullying by 50%, says Sorolla. Cyberbullying also causes deeper damage to the victims who suffer from it. “With bullying you can become aware of what is happening, but cyberbullying is much more hidden, it goes unnoticed by parents and teachers. Teasing is done through social networks or whatsapp groups” and the victims sink deeper and deeper and stop wanting to go online or go to school out of shame. They sink into depression and post-traumatic stress because they don’t know what to do.” A problem that is aggravated when photos or other types of personal material are disseminated and in which, in Sorolla’s opinion, the privacy policies of social networks “leave much to be desired.”

The president of the Valencian Association against School Bullying believes that parents should be aware of the danger that these networks entail “and should not let their children have access to them until they are at least 14 years old.” Sorolla criticises that in recent years it has become fashionable to give away smartphones in communions, with just 9 or 10 years of age, “when that is as dangerous as giving a 12-year-old child the keys of a car.”

Regarding the profile of young people who suffer harassment, both girls and boys suffer it more or less in equal proportion. Of course, the ways in which this abuse is exercised change. “Boys tend to take more physical harm and girls tend to do more damage through social exclusion or through social media. Girls are more affected by not having friends and they tend to get into fights more.”

School bullying has important consequences on the self-esteem and mental health of those who suffer it, but also on their academic performance. This is revealed by a Fundación Alternativas report on ‘The impact of bullying on academic performance in Spain’, prepared by researchers Gisela Rusteholz, economist and doctoral student at the University of Valencia (UV), and Mauro Mediavilla, professor at the Department of Applied Economics at the same university. The results of this work indicate that bullying has a negative impact on all the skills evaluated and that this negative effect would be equivalent to the loss of 3-5 months of formal education for victimised students compared to their non-victimized peers. This represents between 30% and 50% less education in the 10-month school year than their peers. The authors of the report focus on specific subjects, such as Mathematics, and highlight that a bullied student performs between 15 and 19 points less than a non-bullied student; in Sciences, the difference is between 11.2 and 15.05 negative points; and in Reading, between 14.8 and 18.42 points.

The authors warn, in this sense, that bullying can generate poorer academic performance and lead, in the short term, to increased rates of school absenteeism, school failure or early school leaving. And in the long term, of potential losses of educational and employment opportunities.

Drones and fog cannons to keep mosquito infestations at bay after the latest rains

War on tiger mosquitoes and common mosquitoes, with drones to reach places where terrestrial means cannot access and vehicles with nebulizer cannons that spray harmless larvicide treatments with vegetation in wetlands and areas with a probability of flooding. The Mancomunidad de l’Alacanti has reinforced the treatments it carries out throughout the year to prevent the proliferation of mosquitoes in its territory, after the last rains.

This year is very similar in terms of weather to 2019, when the presence of mosquitoes increased tenfold in much of the province due to the effect of the cold drop and the subsequent rise in temperatures. The heat accelerates the natural cycle of the insect and the fumigation companies use land-based means and drones to attack the larvae with biological products to prevent a health emergency from occurring.

In this rainy spring, preventive actions have already been carried out in possible critical points such as the residential area of ​​Urbanova and the Saladar de Agua Amarga with the aim of ending the larvae before they can hatch by applying treatments biological control larvicides based on “bacillus thuringiensis”, a bacterium that lives in the soil and is commonly used as a biological alternative to pesticide. In addition, only when necessary, adulticide treatments are also carried out in the permitted areas through the application of natural pyrethrins.

“We carry out an exhaustive surveillance, with a complete analysis of the areas where the larvae and the adult mosquito proliferate, preserving the habitat because we have been using biological products for many years,” they explain from the pest control company Lokímica Laboratories, which operates in a good part of the province and that allocates a minimum of three days a week to this continuous surveillance since there is a census of conflictive points where it is done in a more exhaustive way. In addition, samples are taken.

This action, which will continue periodically until October, aims to combat the appearance of mosquitoes – especially the tiger mosquito due to its dangerous effects on health – in spaces with stagnant water, through application techniques of larvicides and adulticides of low toxicity that generate less environmental impact.

Apart from producing swellings with discomfort and itching, tiger mosquito bites can be transmitters of very dangerous, strange and difficult to treat diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, zika virus, yellow fever and so on up to more than 20 infectious and viral diseases. With a length of between 5 and 10 millimetres, the tiger is a greater problem than the traditional mosquito because they act at any time of the day and their bite can even penetrate clothing.

These works complement the annual work plan to maintain the environmental health of the natural environment in good condition. In this way, the company’s technical staff undertakes surveillance, control and treatment actions against the common mosquito population in the wetlands, salt flats and flood-prone areas of Agua Amarga, given the proximity of the urban centre of Urbanova. The laboratories that have been entrusted with the common mosquito control service have their teams especially active also in the Barranco de las Ovejas, in Orgegia, Juncaret, La Serreta and Fontcalent.

The teams are used with 4 x 4 vehicles, equipped with long-range spray cannons, and drones for locating and treating outbreaks. With these technical supports they apply various biological products. For the treatment of large extensions, the firm also has a helicopter. On Friday, for example, they will make a flight in the Clot de Galvany.

In the treatment in the Saladar de Agua Amarga, Lokímica has used spray vehicles and manual treatments in inaccessible areas; and drones have been used to locate and treat outbreaks in these areas where land resources do not reach. “Pest control has changed a lot, before more importance was given to the summer season and now it is constant control.”

The laboratories point out that, for now, they have not received any citizen notice or complaint from neighbours about the presence of mosquitoes. “This is due to the previous control and the reinforcement of the treatments that have been carried out during the previous weeks.” Likewise, the firm assures that “the reinforcement of the treatments will be maintained as long as the constant rain conditions of these days continue, since we cannot lower our guard against these insects.”

From the environmental health company they remember that citizen collaboration plays an essential role in preventing mosquitoes from reproducing, especially the tiger. Thus, they ask urbanizations and individuals to keep indoor scuppers, swimming pools and pet drinking fountains in good condition. They also recommend checking the accumulations of water in homes and ending them and checking the vegetation. The small points of puddled water are the main breeding sites for these mosquitoes.

In some areas of the province, the annual mosquito control treatments have been initiated earlier than the usual start dates after the abundant rains of recent weeks and the increase in temperatures of the season, to prevent the hatching and appearance of insects. For this reason, treatments are intensified in town scuppers, green areas, riverbeds and in areas of water accumulation in rural areas of the city.

The Torrevieja City Council continues to pay €76,000 per month for covid disinfection and cleaning in schools and municipal buildings

Most of the restrictions due to the pandemic have fallen, but for the Torrevieja City Council, the city remains in an exceptional health situation due to covid in relation to the provision of some services. Hence, with that argument, it justifies a large outlay of public spending.

The most relevant case is the reinforcement of cleaning and disinfection in municipal buildings and educational centres for Infants and Primary. It was formalised on September 25th, 2020 as an extension of the ordinary service exclusively due to the incidence of the pandemic, and it costs the municipal coffers 76,928 euros (VAT included) every month in addition to the ordinary service.

Before the pandemic, this benefit, which was formalised in favour of Acciona by the previous municipal government in August 2018, cost the City Council of Torrevieja 1,874,568 euros per year. With the reinforcement extension that the new PP government specified in September 2020, it meant and continues to mean 2,738,879 euros per year: 864,311 euros more. The state and regional legislation that protected the extraordinary hygienic measures that legally guarantee this modification is no longer in force.

This extension of cleaning services, according to the public documentation of the file, extended until June 2021. However, it continues to be paid, month by month and on time, to Acciona Facility Services, although the current “extension on extension” of the contract does not appear in the contracting party’s profile, nor in reports from the head of the Legal Department or the General Director of Procurement, which support this management with their resolutions.

Scientific evidence has long indicated that surface disinfection and cleaning is ineffective in combating virus transmission. The images of trucks disinfecting the streets during strict confinement will go down in history as a demonstration of the administration’s mobilisation. Although in reality time and scientific evidence have shown that it had a minimal incidence as a barrier against covid, this service offered by Acciona is based above all on cleaning and disinfection work during school hours in schools and it was launched in its day more for the feeling of security, tranquillity and control over the pandemic, than for its real effectiveness. That the cleaning staff go to each of the municipal offices on a constant basis is already something normalised by the civil servants. And that those same cleaning workers are during school hours reviewing educational facilities, especially the toilets, is also. In total, this expansion pays for the presence of 19 more workers in schools and 17 in municipal offices over the ordinary workforce. The total number of buildings and educational centres covered by the contract is 71.

According to the Councillor for Health, Diana Box, it is not only justified that it be maintained during these months – apart from the fact that the covid restrictions have almost completely declined – but the idea is that it be maintained next year, more as a cleaning reinforcement measure that is justified by covid.

In other words, the idea is to consolidate an additional cost that is not included in the initial specifications of the contract. In a city council where the important thing is the image that can be transferred to the administrators, the presence of this reinforcement is relevant, especially for a group as sensitive to any change as the mothers and fathers of students.

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