The prime minister of the United Arab Emirates has announced the creation of a new ministry of happiness in the Arab Gulf state.
But not everyone is smiling.
Critics quickly took to Twitter to question how the UAE’s domestic human rights record and involvement in regional wars help make people happier.
The new Minister of State for Happiness, said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum wrote on Twitter, “will align and drive government policy to create social good and satisfaction.” A Minister of State for Tolerance, meanwhile, will “promote tolerance as a fundamental value in UAE society.”
The announcement comes amidst a larger government shakeup and news that the government would privatize some services.
In a series of tweets, Al Maktoum, who also serves as the ruler of Dubai, said he wanted a person under 25 to serve as the next minister overseeing youth issues.
Al Maktoum did not say when the changes would be implemented, but he said the decisions were taken in consultation with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the country’s president.
“Thank you for all the efforts done & all these great steps for the future. I am happy & proud,” wrote Twitter user Eenas El Sheakh.
“For a multicultural society like UAE, such a position was, indeed, needed,” commented Abhilasha Singh, about the new tolerance ministry.
But the new ministries were also met with criticism and sarcasm online.
“What is a citizen to do if what makes him or her happy is, say, joining the Muslin (sic) Brotherhood?” New York Times journalist Ben Hubbard asked on Twitter, alluding to the arrest and mistreatment of people accused of being members of the group.
“Excellency your achievements are great, u can’t create happiness for Dubai when u support misery in Egypt, Syria &Yemen,” commented Twitter user Farooq Sumar.
Others shared graphic images of the war in Yemen, where the UAE is among the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels.
“Who sows sadness in Yemen,” wrote Twitter user Hashem Al-Ameer, “doesn’t reap the happiness in his country #UAE.”
The UAE, which ranked the 20th happiest country in the world in the 2015 World Happiness Report, is not the only country that is creating ministries to formally address citizens’ happiness.
Venezuela created a Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness in 2013, tasked with coordinating anti-poverty programs in a country suffering from widespread inflation and a harsh economic downturn.
Ecuador’s State Secretary of Buen Vivir (“Good Living”), Freddy Ehlers, was appointed in 2013 to make the nation more content.
The South-Asian nation of Bhutan, which recently switched from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy, has rejected GDP as a measure of growth, opting instead for a Gross National Happiness index since the early 1970s.
The four pillars of GNH are sustainable development, environmental protection, cultural preservation and good governance.
Venezuela ranked 23rd in the world for happiness between 2012 and 2014, the World Happiness Report found. Ecuador was 48th and Bhutan was 79th, while Canada finished fifth behind Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland.
None of the top five happiest countries have ministries of happiness.