UAE reveals leaner, younger government

Friday 19/02/2016
Swearing-in ceremony for ministers in Abu Dhabi

DUBAI - In an effort to meet the ever-growing challenges in the re­gion, the United Arab Emirates installed in a leaner, younger, outwardly more progressive government, including new minis­terial positions designed to nurture happiness and tolerance.

“Our ambitions are limitless and the UAE has high expectations from you. We see you as trustworthy and hope that the UAE and its citizens will always remain your top prior­ity,” Dubai ruler Sheikh Moham­med bin Rashid al-Maktoum said after the February 14th swearing-in ceremony.

“We seek to achieve major devel­opmental leaps in all vital sectors of our country in line with its lead­ing position on the global level.”

Using his preferred method of communicating with his people, Sheikh Mohammed took to Twitter against the backdrop of the fourth World Government Summit to an­nounce the biggest government restructuring in the UAE’s 44-year history.

In a series of tweets during the two-day event, Sheikh Mohammed revealed that the UAE’s presidency had approved a government plan to reduce the number of the coun­try’s ministries while outsourcing some government services to the private sector, an effort to stream­line institutions and attract more foreign investment, according to observers.

“We will have a road map to out­source most government services to the private sector...

The new government will have a smaller number of ministries and more ministers to deal with national and strategic issues,” Sheikh Moham­med, who is the UAE’s vice-pres­ident, said on his official Twitter account.

Among the government down­sizing plans, the ministries of Education and Higher Education will be merged into a single min­istry for the purpose of overseeing the country’s education strategy — from nurseries to postgraduate courses.

The Labour Ministry will become the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, and the Culture Ministry has been expanded to in­clude knowledge development, while the National Council of Tour­ism and Antiquities will be under the Economy Ministry.

Sheikh Mohammed also said the UAE’s Cabinet Affairs Ministry would be in charge of devising fu­ture strategies to prepare the coun­try for the post-oil era. The UAE has the most diverse economy in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Another high-profile appoint­ment was the naming of Major- General Sheikh Khalid bin Mo­hamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan as chairman of the country’s intelli­gence agency.

Sheikh Khalid is the son of Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who is expected to be the next president of the seven-state emir­ates federation.

The announcement that generat­ed the most attention was the crea­tion of a Minister of State for Hap­piness, who would be tasked with pushing policy “to create social good and satisfaction.” The Dubai ruler revealed the new ministerial position would be held by Ohood bint Khalfan al-Roumi, who will also continue as director-general of the prime minister’s office. The UAE ranked 20th in the 2015 World Happiness Report.

Veteran Emirati policymaker Sheikha Lubna al-Qasimi will also head the newly established Min­istry of Tolerance, which accord­ing to Sheikh Mohammed will be tasked with promoting tolerance “as a fundamental value in UAE so­ciety”.

The new government includes eight new ministers, five of whom are women. The average age of the new ministers is 38 years with the youngest being Oxford University graduate Shamma al-Mazrui, 22, who was named minister of State for Youth Affairs.

A number of officials kept their jobs in the new cabinet, including the ministers of Interior and For­eign Affairs.

The UAE has avoided the turmoil that has swept much of the region in recent years, attracting millions of tourists and foreign workers while focusing on trade, energy and financial services.