IN their messages to the nation on the occasion of the completion of the democratic government's first year in office, both President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani have observed that the people had gone through difficult times during the eight-year military regime and expressed their determination to improve their lot. That the man in the street faces "enormous political, economic and security problems" is beyond question, but how far the government has been able to solve them is open to varying interpretations. As it is, the challenge is so daunting that any political and administrative set-up would find it hard to meet. Like most Third World countries, the situation here would be found wanting in numerous spheres that touch the citizenry's everyday life. One of the principal concerns for all and sundry is the high cost of living, with the government either unable to bring it down or help make opportunities available to the people to increase the level of their income. Over the past year, the country has witnessed an abnormal and all-round hike in prices, owing to both domestic and global economic crises. This has had a multiplier effect on the sufferings of the common man, markedly squeezing his capacity to secure essential goods and services. The state of certain basic needs, like food and water, health and education, housing and clothing, law and order, transport, electricity, etc., is quite dismal, and with the passage of time, it is getting worse. Addressing a press conference on the World Water Day, Federal Minister for Environment Hameedullah Jan Afridi has warned that Pakistan was passing through what is technically called water stress level with barely 1,000 cubic meters of this essential resource available per person per year and was close to being a water-scarce country. Now that the political tension between the PPP and the PML(N) seems to be on the wane, it is hoped that the authorities would address themselves to ameliorating the lot of the people and direct concerned departments to deal with their problems on a war footing. Whatever other measures are adopted to remove the threat of militancy and extremism, it is quite obvious that without massive investment in education, the efforts have virtually no chance to fructify. There is, therefore, urgent need to increase allocation of funds for this sector, to set up good centres of learning at all levels. Other areas like medical, accommodation, conveyance and pollution are no less important. It is unfortunate that despite the looming danger of the shortfall of water and power, the past governments paid little heed to an obvious solution, lying in the building of large reservoirs. It is high time that at Kalabagh, a natural site for the storage of plentiful water and generation of a big amount of electricity, a dam was raised in the national spirit.