INTERNATIONAL

Conjuring happiness and tolerance, the Emirati way

Announcement on the creation of new ministries was made by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, on Twitter. —FILE PHOTO: AP

Announcement on the creation of new ministries was made by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, on Twitter. —FILE PHOTO: AP  

Maybe money can’t buy happiness, at least not at current oil prices.

So the rulers of the United Arab Emirates had a novel idea. They decided to name a minister of happiness.

It seems that being the nation known for building the biggest indoor ski slope and an island that looks like a palm tree just was not cutting it anymore. At least not in the happiness department. Oh, and it seems that tolerance is also in short supply.

So the government will appoint a minister of tolerance, too.

The sheikhs who rule the United Arab Emirates have announced the most sweeping government reorganisation in their country’s 44-year history, which included the creation of the two new Ministers of State.

The announcement was made with all the trappings of a royal decree by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and the country’s Prime Minister — on Twitter.

“It is the beginning of a new journey of achievement and giving to the people, and we ask God to help us serve and take care of them,” Sheikh Mohammed said in one post in Arabic.

Happiness and tolerance were the highlights of an otherwise bureaucratic shake-up, which also put another government body, the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, in charge of “The Future.”

The rulers of the United Arab Emirates like to do things in their own way.

Along with the world’s tallest man-made structure and the fastest roller coaster, the country has recently claimed accolades for the most nationalities washing their hands at the same time, the largest number of people eating cereal in one place and the world’s biggest breakfast table (the last two were achieved simultaneously at one landmark event.)

“The Ministry of Happiness sounds sort of Orwellian and sinister given that this is a surveillance state, but it is in line with their quite high self-regard,” said Nicholas McGeehan, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The government remains dominated by unelected royals, and those who criticise them or engage in political activity risk arrest, prosecution and imprisonment.

“You can be happy as long as you keep your mouth shut,” Mr. McGeehan said. “That is the sort of social contract that is in place there.”

Internationally, the country is already pretty happy.

The 2015 World Happiness Report ranked it No. 20, above Britain and below Belgium. Switzerland was No. 1, and the United States was No. 15.

The creation of a minister to promote happiness recalled Bhutan’s adoption in 1972 of its Gross National Happiness measure, an alternative to gross national product, although the Asian nation’s current Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, has largely abandoned it. — New York Times News Service

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