Official 40 Set 6

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Infrastructure Privatization

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What issue does the professor mainly discuss?
  • A. Government purchases of private property to expand transportation routes

  • B. The rising cost of public transportation in the United States

  • C. The transfer of certain public assets to for-profit companies

  • D. Whether voters can be persuaded to approve toll increases

显示答案 正确答案: C

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    NARRATOR:Listen to part of a lecture in a United States government class.

    FEMALE PROFESSOR:We've been talking about the basic services and facilities that an economy needs to function—roads, bridges, rail systems, water supplies, power grids, and so forth.What we call infrastructure.

    Now, traditionally, much of a society's infrastructure—particularly the transportation infrastructure—has been owned and operated by states, by governments.But lately, local and state governments have started to consider, and sometimes actually enter into various deals to privatize parts of their infrastructure, particularly in the transportation sector.

    And why is this privatization happening?Well, as you may know, in the 1950s and sixties, there was a tremendous highway-building boom.Governments created a huge interlocking network of highways with associated bridges and tunnels.But these facilities are getting old now, and they're becoming more and more expensive to maintain, very expensive, actually.Tolls and tax revenues don't often cover all the needed repairs.

    MALE STUDENT:So, why don't the governments just raise tolls and taxes?

    FEMALE PROFESSOR:Well, that's not so simple.Government officials are elected by voters, and voters get upset when their taxes go up.And, as for highway tolls, commuters, especially, don't like paying higher tolls.Merely proposing increases can damage political careers.So there's tremendous pressure on governments to find other ways to maintain infrastructure assets.One solution is to sell or lease a part of the infrastructure—a toll bridge, a tunnel, something like that— to a private company, usually a company that specializes in this sorta thing.The idea is that the company that buys or leases a bridge or a highway, or whatever, will find it easier to keep it in good repair.

    MALE STUDENT:That would make commuters happy.

    FEMALE PROFESSOR:Right. There could be better service.Since they're not government entities, private companies face less political resistance, say, to raising tolls in order to provide that better service.

    But besides that, there's another reason governments like these deals.States often have trouble paying their bills, and they can use money they get from selling or leasing a piece of infrastructure to balance their budgets.

    MALE STUDENT:That all sounds good to me.

    FEMALE PROFESSOR:It does sound good, but a lotta people are very wary of privatizing pieces of infrastructure, and rightly so.For instance, in almost every case thus far, the first thing private companies do is drastically raise user fees because, they say: [change voice slightly] "Oh, we must do critical maintenance that's gone undone for years and years!And because we are private company, we can't use tax money to do it. Our only option is raising tolls.

    But what's the impact on people who use a toll road to get to work?What if a private owner doubles or triples the toll overnight?

    FEMALE STUDENT:Uh users would hafta spend a higher percentage of their income on commuting.

    FEMALE PROFESSOR:And depending on their income, that percentage could be significant.

    FEMALE STUDENT:But if tolls went up...me, I'd just avoid the toll road and take smaller back roads where there aren't any tolls.

    FEMALE PROFESSOR:That's a good point.Secondary roads would become attractive to lots of other people, too. And private companies know this.They also know that dramatic reductions in traffic would hurt their bottom line.So market forces do play a role in keeping private companies from raising their tolls too much.But the mere prospect of astronomical toll hikes is still alarming to governments when they think about selling or leasing parts of an infrastructure.

    Now, from a business standpoint, infrastructure purchases can be great investments.If a company buys or gets a long-term lease on a toll bridge from the government, it's got an almost guaranteed steady source of revenue for years and years.Which means that if the company decides it wants to sell the bridge to another company, say, ten years from now, it'll have no problem finding a buyer.

    FEMALE STUDENT:But, what if that buyer, this new owner continues to charge a high toll but doesn't do the same amount of maintenance because they wanna squeeze more money out of the asset?

    FEMALE PROFESSOR:In that case, could the government buy the asset back?Well, to do that, it would have to raise money either by raising taxes or by selling bonds, both of which are politically sensitive.So it's unclear, in a practical sense, whether these deals are truly reversible.

  • 旁白:请听美国政府课上的部分内容。

    教授:我们一直在讲经济运行需要的基本服务和设施,比如道路、桥梁、铁路系统、供水、电网等等。我们把这些叫做基础设施。

    传统上来说,社会的大部分基础设施,特别是交通设施,都是由国家政府拥有和运营的。但是近来,地方和州政府开始考虑设施私有化,实际上有时候已经达成了各种交易把它们的部分设施私有化,特别是交通部门的设施。

    这种私有化为什么会产生呢?你们也许知道,在二十世纪五十年代和六十年代,有一个巨大的高速公路修建大潮。政府创造了一个巨大的高速公路连锁网,还带有桥梁和隧道。但是这些设施现在越来越旧了,而且要维护也越来越贵,实际上非常贵。通行费和税收收入通常无法负担所有必需的维修费用。

    学生:那政府为什么不直接增收通行费和税呢?

    教授:没有这么简单。政府官员是由选民选举产生的,税金上调选民就会不满。至于高速公路通行费,通勤人士尤其不喜欢支付更高的通行费。仅仅提议增加费用都会损害他们的政治生涯。所以政府面临巨大压力要找到其他方法来维护这些基础设施。一个解决方案是把部分基础设施,比如一座收费的桥、一个隧道之类的卖或租一家私营公司,这家公司通常是专门经营这种设施的。政府的想法是,买下或租下了一座桥或一条高速之类的这家公司更容易保持良好的维修。

    学生:这样通勤人士就高兴了。

    教授:没错,可能会有更好的服务。因为他们不是政府部门,所以私营公司,比方说为了提供更好的服务而增收通行费时面对的政治阻力更少一些。

    但是除此之外,政府喜欢这些交易还有一个原因。州政府通常都很难付清账单,所以他们可以用从卖或出租部分基础设施中得到的钱来平衡预算。

    学生:在我看来没有问题啊。

    教授:听起来确实没问题,但很多人都对私有化部分基础设施表示担心,而他们理当有这种担忧。比如说,在目前的几乎每个案例中,私营公司做的第一件事就是大幅度增加使用者费用,因为他们说“我们必须进行多年以来一直没做的重大维护。因为我们是私人公司,我们不能用税收去修。我们唯一的选择就是提高过路费。”

    但是这对那些要经过收费道路去上班的人有什么影响呢?万一私有者一夜之间把通行费翻一番或翻两番怎么办?

    学生:这样使用者就不得不把他们收入的更大一部分花在通勤上了。

    教授:而且根据他们的收入情况,这一比例可能是显著的。

    学生:但是如果通行费涨了,是我的话,我会直接避开收费的道路,改走小一点的不收费的僻径。

    教授:说的不错。支路也会吸引很多其他的人,而私营公司也知道这一点。他们还知道交通的剧减会伤及他们的盈亏底线。所以市场力量在防止私营公司增收太多通行费方面发挥了作用。但是当政府考虑售卖或出租部分基础设施时,仅仅是会出现极大的通行费用上涨的可能性就很令他们担忧。

    从公司的角度来看,购买基础设施是很棒的投资。如果一家公司从政府那里购买或长期租下了一座收费的桥,它就得到了一个几乎很多年有有保证的稳定收入来源。而这就意味着,如果这家公司决定向把这座桥卖给另一家公司,比如说十年,它很容易就能找到买家。

    学生:但是如果那个买家,也就是新的拥有者继续征收高额通行费,因为想从这座资产中榨取更多金钱,他们又不进行同等的维护的话怎么办?

    教授:在那种情况下,政府能不能把这座桥买回去呢?要这么做的话,它必须要么通过增加税收要么抛售债券才能筹到钱,而这两者在政治上都很敏感。所以从现实意义上来说,这些交易是否真的可以逆转还不明确。

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    题型分类:主旨题

    音频定位:

    But lately, local and state governments have started to consider, and sometimes actually enter into various deals to privatize parts of their infrastructure, particularly in the transportation sector. 

    选项分析:

    lecture的内容围绕公共资产从公有化到私有化的转变,尤其是交通方面。

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