Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
During the past few decades, innovative methods of governance have begun to emerge. With new approaches to management or administration, we have witnessed creation of unheard of ministerial portfolios. Before the discovery of oil, the governments did not see it necessary to have a minister of oil/petroleum to look into oil-related matters. When oil became an essential commodity that started driving the global economy, every government — irrespective of its nature — created the ministerial position to deal with such issues. Later, we saw new ministerial portfolios emerging across the globe like space and technology and population control etc. With dozens of new portfolios, sometimes it feels as if soon we might run out of titles. We have ministries that cover all forms of political, industrial, economic and social activities. However, there is one portfolio or one ministerial position that did not even cross anybody’s imagination. It came as a surprise and really huge. We all know that surprise as the “Ministry of Happiness.” Interestingly, the world was even more surprised because a Middle Eastern desert country, the United Arab Emirates, came up with such a novel idea. And guess who will be holding this portfolio? The answer is: A young woman Ohood Al-Roumi. I believe she is the first minister of happiness in the world. To be very honest, whenever I write or say “Minister of Happiness” I can’t resist smiling. Perhaps, many of you people might be experiencing a similar thing. Now, I honestly ask, what is her job and what measures she is supposed to take as a minister of happiness? The UAE has a total of eight female ministers and as far as I know that one of them is 22 years old minister of youth. Let us just focus on the ministry of happiness because our region is in dire need of happiness and more smiling faces. I wonder what kind of paperwork the minister of happiness is supposed to handle. Would it be a report that says, today Abu Dhabi had more smiles than Dubai or would it be like let us assume; a child was not happy at Emirates Mall, so we need to send a Disney character to make him happy. The CNN reported this decision very aptly in the following words: “The United Arab Emirates is not leaving the cheerfulness of its citizens to chance, appointing its first minister of happiness.” It is a giant step toward seeing governments getting in direct touch with their people. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, UAE prime minister and the ruler of Dubai, have said that the minster of happiness will be joined by a new minister of tolerance, Sheikha Lubna bint Khaled Al-Qasimi, previously the minister of foreign trade, who became the UAE’s first female minister in 2004. At the end of the day, the UAE will not stop from surprising the Emiratis and the whole world. Now, a desert country has eight female ministers. Two of those female ministers are holding portfolios, which are very important to the Middle East, ministers of happiness and tolerance. These are one of the most important elements missing from many countries in the Middle East, happiness and tolerance. Both are very badly needed. The United Arab Emirates is not new to being on the top list of countries that are seeking to elevate their positions among the comity of nations. The number of female ministers in the UAE’s government reflects the equal opportunities that are being provided to the Emirati women. The UAE has achieved many important milestones in many fields such as education, health, civic infrastructure, technology and social progress. It has become one of the leading tourist destinations and investment hubs, both regionally and internationally. It has the fastest aviation industry that makes the main link between the East and the West. The UAE may have created the ministry of happiness just recently but we are not surprised because only last year, a report described people living in the UAE as one of the happiest in the world. Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Innovative Idea to Ensure Happiness reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.