UAE names 'Minister of Happiness': Other unique ministries around the world

PHOTO: Reuters

Everyone needs more joy in their lives, and the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has certainly taken that mantra to heart when he announced the creation of a new cabinet position - the Minister of State for Happiness.

"National happiness isn't a wish. Plans, projects, programmes, indices will inform the work of our ministries to achieve happiness," UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum wrote on his official Twitter page.

It was part of a broader cabinet reshuffle in the gulf state, which also saw the creation of a "Minister of State for Tolerance".

The UAE is not the first country to have a government ministry dedicated to developing, regulating and enforcing policies on happiness.

In 2013, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro created a "Vice Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness", to coordinate all of the country's poverty alleviation programmes, the Washington Post reported.

In another South American country, Ecuador, a former cabinet minister was named the "Secretary for the Presidential Initiative for the Construction of a Society of Good Life" in 2013.

There are also various other unique Cabinet positions around the world. In 2014, newly-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi established a new ministry to promote alternative therapies and traditional medicine, called the "Ministry for Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy" (AYUSH).

Meanwhile in Japan, Minister for Women's Empowerment Haruko Arimura also has an unofficial title to her name: "Minister of Toilets". According to Japan Today, the title came about due to her belief that improving restroom facilities and public toilets were pivotal towards women's advancement.

Closer to home, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak added an "urban wellbeing" function to the country's Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 2013. It is now known as the "Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government".

And of course, a "uniquely Singapore" Cabinet position was the post of "Minister Mentor", which was held by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew between 2004 and 2011.

seanyap@sph.com.sg

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