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经济学人:国营航空公司 不舒适的代名词

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State-controlled airlines

国营航空公司
Flags of inconvenience
“不舒适”的代名词
Why governments are so keen to keep their loss-making airlines aloft
为什么各国政府都十分热衷于保有不断亏损的航空公司呢?
MALAYSIA AIRLINES deserves sympathy. This year Flight MH370 disappeared over the Indian Ocean and MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine. But these tragedies merely hastened the struggling airline on its route back into full government ownership. On August 8th the country's sovereign-wealth fund offered to buy the 30% of shares in private hands in order to restructure the airline. The root cause of Malaysia's troubles should elicit far less pity. Like many national carriers, it was losing money as a matter of course.
近期马来西亚航空的遭遇值得同情。今年,马航相继发生了两起灾难:航班MH370在印度洋上空失踪,以及航班MH17在乌克兰东部遭到击落。但这些悲剧事件仅仅是加快了深陷泥潭的马航回归到全面国有控制的步伐而已。8月8日,国家主权财富基金提出以从私人持股者手中购入30%的马航公司股份,进而对该航空公司实施重建计划。然而,导致马航深陷经营危机的原因或许根本不值得怜悯。就像诸多国营航空公司一样,马航也理所当然地处于亏损状态。
Malaysia's is not the only government that persists in keeping rickety airlines in flight. Italy raided the state's coffers again last year to keep Alitalia going. Then, on the day of the Malaysia bail-out, Etihad, the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, agreed to inject a further 560m (750m) into Alitalia in return for a 49% stake. A restructuring plan agreed at the end of July will keep Poland's LOT in business—in return for 200m of taxpayers' cash.
在坚持保有这些摇摇欲坠的航空公司方面,马来西亚政府并不“孤单”。意大利政府在去年再次搜刮国库资金,以维持意大利航空的运作。紧接在马航被收归国有的那天,阿联酋的旗舰航空公司阿提哈德航空(Etihad)同意向意大利航空进一步注入5亿6千万欧元,以换取后者49%的股份。一份7月末达成的重建计划将令波兰的LOT航空持续经营,而其代价则是纳税人手中的2亿美元。

The drain on public funds has a long tradition. Airlines used to be regarded as a vital part of transport infrastructure, like roads or bridges. So, until the mid-1980s, governments owned most of the airlines, set fares and routes, and protected flag-carriers by restricting new entrants. But privatisation made air travel more competitive and liberalisation brought competition from low-cost carriers. Most airlines in state control have failed to adapt.

政府对公共资金的耗费俨然已有很长的历史。就像是公路和桥梁一样,航空公司从前就被认为是交通基础建设当中的一个重要部分。因此,直到上世纪80年代为止,大部分航空公司都是政府所有的。政府不仅设置机票价格,还设定飞行路线,同时还通过阻止新竞争者进入市场的方式来保护旗舰航空公司。然而,航空业的私营化却使得航空旅行的较量更加激烈,航空业的开放也将低成本航空公司引入了市场竞争当中。而这也令许多国营航空无所适从。
The exceptions are few. The thriving airlines of Singapore and Ethiopia, and the Gulf carriers, Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways, all benefited from government money but have been allowed to operate as commercial enterprises with minimal interference. Such entrepreneurial thrust is rare. Elsewhere, inexperienced cronies often dominate management. State employees frequently travel free. Many carriers are obliged to maintain loss-making domestic routes to please politicians. Olympic Airlines was forced to deliver newspapers for a pittance to keep the country's press barons happy. The Greek national carrier went to the wall in 2009.
独树一帜的国营航空是很罕见的。有一批蓬勃发展的国营竞争者,如新加坡航空和埃塞俄比亚航空,以及海湾地区的阿提哈德航空、阿联酋航空和卡塔尔航空,上述“例外”均为国家资本支持,但在经营上都有着如同商业企业般的权限,有着极低的政府干预。如此开创性的航空业推动很稀有。而在其他非“例外”的国营航空当中,缺乏行业经验的“裙带货”常常身处管理层的高位;国企员工经常性地能够享受免费航空旅程;为了取悦政客的欢心,许多航空公司还一直运作部分持续亏损的国内航线。为了令国家媒体大亨开心,奥林匹克航空公司不得不以微薄的酬劳来为其配送报刊。这家希腊国营的航空公司最终于2009年宣布倒闭。
Poor management, overstaffing and strong unions have left airlines struggling in a changing business and with little hope of cost-cutting or streamlining. Small state-owned carriers have little clout when buying planes and are far down the pecking order in global airline alliances. So why do governments keep their flag carriers?
在一个不断变化的经营环境里,管理不善、人浮于事以及盘根错节的“小联盟”都使得国营航空公司苦苦挣扎,削减成本和部门改革等等的手段对他们来说只是奢望。在购置飞机的时候,小型国营航空话语权极低,而在全球航空联盟等级当中也是地位低下的弱者。那么,为什么各大政府都愿意保有他们的旗舰航空公司呢?
Partly because there are few options beyond an endless cycle of failed restructurings. Privatisation plans are plentiful but rarely succeed because heavy losses, debts and legacy costs frighten investors away. It is cheaper to start an airline from scratch. Saviours such as Etihad are as rare as an on-time departure from Beijing airport.
其部分原因是,除了深陷于一个不停失败的重建循环之外,航空公司并没有多少更好的选择。私营化的案例很多,但成功的私营化案例却很少,而这是出于沉重的亏损、债务以及历史遗留成本,这些不利因素都令投资者惊慌而逃。与接手一家航空公司相比,白手起家似乎更实惠些。就算是阿提哈德航空这样的国营航空里的“救世主”,也无法准时在北京机场起飞。
The political cost of turfing out thousands of state employees makes liquidation unpalatable. So do fears that vital connections to the world will be lost forever. These, in fact, are largely unfounded. Switzerland and Belgium have done without a flag carrier for years. Indeed, opening up to competition is likely to result in more flights and lower fares. But even in death, protectionist urges are strong. Zambian Airways was liquidated in 2009 but the government refuses to let foreign airlines use Lusaka as a hub, in the unlikely event that the airline will one day fly again.
要令成千上万国企员工失去饭碗才能达成的重组计划,其政治代价过于高昂,这也意味着实施清盘难上加难。与此同时,政府还十分害怕一旦实行了航空业改革,一个联系世界的重要通道就此被隔绝。但事实上,这些担忧大多都是没有必要的。就像是瑞士和比利时政府,他们早已在多年前放弃了国营旗舰航空。航空业的改革开放确实会令竞争加剧,从而令更多的航班和更低的票价能够参与到市场竞争来。然而,就算这些国营航空徘徊于生死线当中,贸易保护主义者的姿态依然强硬。赞比亚航空在2009年遭到了清盘,而即便是国外航空公司有能力让其重新运营,政府还是拒绝让国外的航空公司插手其中,其原因是政府不想让卢萨卡成为一个航空枢纽。
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rare [rɛə]

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adj. 竞争的,比赛的

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inject [in'dʒekt]

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v. 注射

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n. 不便,困难
vt. 使 ... 不便,使

 
compass ['kʌmpəs]

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vt. 图谋,包围,达成

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adj. [计算

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