“It might seem crazy what I’m about to say,
Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break . . .
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof,
Because I’m happy”
These lyrics from Pharrell’s “Happy,” 2014’s best-selling song in the United States, could set the theme for the United Arab Emirates, where the prime minister has appointed a “minister of happiness.”
The renown poet and head of the world’s seventh richest country has seen enough dollar signs to know that money does not buy happiness and so he has appointed Ohood Al Roumi to cheer up his people.
Al Roumi, former head of economic policy for the UAE emirate of Dubai, is the current director general of the prime minister’s office. She’ll keep doing that job while doubling as “minister of state for happiness.”
Al Roumi will “align and drive government policy to create social good and satisfaction,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “Happiness in the UAE is not just a hope, there will [be] plans, projects, programmes and indicators.”
The move, which Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum announced Wednesday via Twitter to his 5.58 million followers, comes as part of the biggest cabinet shakeup in the country’s 44-year history and during the World Government Summit taking place in Dubai.
“Happy” is not the only tune Sheikh Mohammed is singing. He’s also created a minister of tolerance and refocused the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs as Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and The Future.
“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 posted in Arabic.
Sheikh Mohammed says that he wants to make the UAE “one of the best countries in the world” within five years, and he’s created a poem “Happy Nation” to match that vision:
“Our people are happy and in their prime,
Since the days of Zayed till the end of time.
Blessed with honor and dignity they thrive,
Admonished by none, they lead a joyous revive.
While some struggle with obstacles and strain,
Our people are sheltered from agony and pain.
Their children wrapped in peace, they do not fear,
For their wishes and desires, they need not shed a tear.
They live in justice, their dreams fulfilled,
Not chasing illusions, their visions instilled.”
According to the New York Times, however, not everyone is smiling at this new mandate.
“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. “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.”
Multiple media outlets have described the UAE’s appointment of the minister of happiness as reminiscent of Bhutan’s move in 1972 in creating a Gross National Happiness Index, valuing and promoting happiness as much as its economic success.
The Times reported the UAE ranked No. 20 on the 2015 World Happiness Report, above Britain and below Belgium, with Switzerland No. 1, and the United States No. 15. It would appear the UAE will be singing, clapping and dancing its way like Pharrell to that No. 1 spot.