On July 19, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani addressed the nation to apprise it on the performance of his government since it took over more than three months ago; to inform the people about the challenges facing the country and the steps the government plans to take in this regard. Different quarters have reacted to the prime minister's speech differently. The Opposition has out rightly termed it as disappointing, a reflection of the bad performance of the government during the last three months and containing nothing for the poor. A couple of other political parties, who are not part of the Opposition, have also identical views about the PM's address. The national media has, however, analysed and commented upon the speech in a more dispassionate and realistic manner. The thrust of the argument in these comments is that while problems confronting the government are daunting, unprecedented and not the government's own creation, the political managers could have resolved much earlier certain issues, like the restoration of deposed judges, for which they had at their disposal sufficient time and requisite resources. However, the prime minister's promise to give the nation good news on the judge's issue soon has been widely welcomed, but scepticism still underlines the public expectations in view of the failure of the government in meeting various deadlines on this issue. The bottom line of the popular discourse on the pervasive political uncertainty in the country is that it mainly stems from the failure of the government to resolve the judge's issue and knock out of the constitution the draconian clause - 58(2)(b). No body disagrees with the prime minister that there are no immediate quick fix solutions to the multi-faceted and complex problems like inflation, price hike, atta shortages, unemployment and terrorism. But every body expects that the democratically elected government would come forward with a clear direction, comprehensive strategy and a firm resolve to handle them. The high expectations of the people have been built on the popular belief strengthened during the eight years of Musharraf's authoritarian rule that democracy is the panacea for all ills afflicting our society. This is not untrue. But in a developing country like ours where the problems have continued to pile up for years, nay for decades, it is very difficult to satisfy the mounting demands of the people in a period of few months. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the people expected from the government too much and too soon. Although the prime minister's speech does not contain any dramatic announcement on the price of atta, electricity, gas or petroleum tariff, it would be unfair to say that his address to the nation on July 19 lacks any road map for easing the existing difficult situation. For example, regarding electricity, the government has prevented the situation from going bad to worse through a mechanism of load shedding that has ensured better supply of electricity to the two vital sectors of our economy-industry and agriculture. It is obvious that load shedding would end only when power generation capacity is further increased. To accomplish this task, the ministry of water and power has been working on war footing and has completed arrangements for investing about $14 billion in the power sector. Another major achievement in the power sector mentioned in the prime minister's speech is the establishment of the Thar Coal Authority to tap a vast reserve of coal in the province of Sindh. In order to mobilise international investors a round table conference will be held in Washington on July 29, which would be presided over by the prime minister himself. The government has also expedited work on Bhasha Dam, which would generate 6000MW of electricity. The operationalisation of these plans would not only put a permanent end to load shedding, it will also produce electricity in excess of our present and future needs. Another notable feature of the prime minister's speech is the emphasis on increasing production in the agricultural sector. For this purpose Mr Gilani outlined a strategy, which sounds reasonable. The support price of what would be further increased in order to give the farmers incentive to increase wheat production. A sum of Rupee 30 billion has also been allocated for investment in the agricultural sector. Special focus is being laid on livestock and dairy farms development as these share approximately 50 percent of the agricultural sector's contribution to the national economy. Moreover, the development of agricultural sector would help to reduce poverty in the country. More than 60 percent of our population still lives in the rural areas and are directly or indirectly linked with the agricultural sector. The development of agriculture would not only benefit this vast majority, it would also contribute towards increasing production in our industrial sector. This is a long-term strategy under which sustainable development of the agricultural sector would be ensured, dependence on the import of food grains and edible oil reduced and increase in the income of the farmers achieved, bringing a healthy turn around in the overall economy. True to the ideology of the Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP), the prime minister in his speech laid special emphasis on measures for helping the weak segments of society i.e. women, children and minorities. These measures include 100 percent increase in the employment quota for women, Benazir Income Support Programme for the poor families, Food Stamps to provide relief against high prices of food items and extension of Lady Heath Workers (LHW) to Balochistan and FATA. While reviewing the speech of the prime minister, one must keep in mind that the era of cheap energy and over consumption is over. The prices of energy have become competitive because of high demand generated by fast growing economies like China and India. Since the largest sources of energy, like oil, gas and coal, are non-renewable, their prices continue to increase. Political developments like the war in Iraq, the threat of US-Iran clash in the Gulf and internal disturbances in the oil producing countries of Africa are other factors, which push the prices of oil upward. Since Pakistan almost meets its entire fuel needs by importing oil, the fuel prices are bound to be high. The previous government kept the oil prices low through heavy subsidies, which the economy of the country can no longer afford. Prime Minister Gilani has quite candidly told the nation that the fuel prices in Pakistan are bound to increase with the rise in oil prices in the international market. Even then the government claims that it is paying Rs 1.5 billion as subsidy to keep the oil prices within a reasonable and affordable range. Similar is the case of food prices. The rise in the prices of food items is a world-wide phenomenon. The increase in the world's population and diversion towards bio-energy are the main factors behind the sudden and unprecedented surge in the food prices. It has affected all the countries, but the developing countries like Pakistan are hit harder because they are short of capital for importing the food items that are required essentially for the poor masses. The only way to overcome food shortages and bring down the prices of wheat and edible oil is to implement a strategy for an increased production through incentives to the farmers and provision of cheap agricultural inputs, like agricultural machinery, fertilisers and quality seeds. Although the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is a nominee of the PPP - the largest component of ruling coalition - he did not present himself, in his address to the nation, as the representative of the Peoples' Party only. He was speaking as a leader of a coalition government and attributed whatever successes his government has achieved during the last three months, like preparation and approval of the Finance Bill, harmonious relationship between the centre and provinces and maintenance of law and order, to the cooperation from his coalition partners. In this regard he mentioned and thanked Mian Nawaz Sharif, Maulana Fazalur Rehman and Asfandyar Wali Khan in the beginning of his address. This is the most precious asset the government of Prime Minister Gilani has in its possession; because it represents collective political consciousness of the people and is a symbol of the new political culture in the Pakistan.