Government changes lay groundwork for our future

Shake-up of ministries will give the federal Government much greater flexibility

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed , Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces (2nd R) and Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai (R) tour the Museum of the Future during the 2016 World Government Summit in Dubai. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
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The World Government Summit held this week in Dubai was a fitting event at which to announce sweeping changes to the structure of the federal Government, especially given the city’s reputation for innovation and fresh thinking. There was a buzz around the normally calm Madinat Jumeirah on Monday as hundreds of people attended the opening of the summit, which featured a keynote address from US president Barack Obama via satellite.

The idea of the summit is simple. Bring together the world’s leading thinkers from diverse fields to discuss future challenges in governance and ways to meet them.

Among the critical questions asked, a clear theme emerged: what is the future of governance during times of uncertainty? The answer is deceptively simple: governments must devise strategies for unthinkable future challenges that engage citizens in the process of development of the country at large.

In line with the spirit of the summit, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced sweeping changes to the structural complexion of the federal Government. These changes, which range from the creation of new ministerial portfolios to the consolidation of other ministries and the outsourcing of projects to the private sector, will lay the foundation needed to confront today’s challenges and prepare for the future.

“Governments must be flexible. We don’t need more ministries, but more ministers capable of dealing with change,” Sheikh Mohammed said as he announced the changes. “We want a young and flexible government that will fulfil our youth’s aspirations and achieve our people’s ambitions.”

The changes are both ambitious and practical. While the creation of a Minister of State for Happiness, with a mission to “channel policies and plans” towards creating a happier society, will generate much attention, the core shifts will energise youth and women while streamlining the Government so that it is nimble enough to prepare the country for the post-oil era. A Youth National Council will be created for young men and women to serve as advisers on youth issues. The council will be led by a female Minister of State for Youth who is no older than 22.

Several changes reflect the continued importance of the health and labour sectors. Recognising the role that healthy living and a dynamic healthcare system can play in society, the Ministry of Health has been restructured and renamed to focus more attention on the prevention of diseases. In a pledge towards the continuing nationalisation of the workforce, the Ministry of Labour will become the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and the human resources authority, Tanmia, will find a new home inside this ministry.

Many of the changes will allow the Government to support growing sectors in the economy. The UAE is already a hub for technology and an incubator for start-ups in the region. To reflect this growth, the Ministry of Culture will become the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development.

The creation of a Minister of State for Tolerance is additional proof of the UAE’s distinction in the Middle East. As many countries grapple with the spectre of sectarian conflict, the UAE has pushed forward to safeguard tolerance in law. This appointment is further evidence of our ability to lead by example.

As Sheikh Mohammed noted: “We need a government whose essence is human and family, education and aspirations to build their future. We need a government with its purpose to build a virtuous society, a forgiving environment, close families, educated generations and equal economic opportunity for all.” These important changes will help the country realise this noble call.