Economics of Happiness

MEHMOOD UL HASSAN KHAN

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Economics is a complicated discipline and happiness too. Both have their own parameters, dimensions, dynamics and directions. Both also have their limitations, litmus tests and the last but not the least, long term plans, policies, projects and programs. Now it has become a hot topic among the policy makers, think-tanks, researchers and academia because of the declining growth rates, weak economies, lay-offs, crashing of stock and commodity exchanges and above all undue and unwanted enhanced role of non-state actors around the globe.

According to different economists, psychologists and experts of international business and marketing the “economics of happiness is an approach to assessing welfare that combines economists’ techniques with those of psychologists, and relies on more expansive notions of utility than does conventional economics”. Research based on this approach highlights the factors mainly raise in income, job security/employment, qualitative life, peace and harmony, fair-play and the last but not the least, sustained growth patterns. Its conflicting points may be included economic inequality, inflation, unemployment, gender discrimination and corruption etc.

Analyzing the economics of happiness combines the techniques of economists and psychologists. Experts have measured the sense of well-being of hundreds of thousands of people around the world, and examined the surprising range of factors contributing to happiness.

Economics of happiness sounds a bit New Age, New Policy, New Vision and New Way to provide/achieve qualitative life. Most recently the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has appointed State Minister for “Happiness” which is no laughing matter. UAE leads and rest follows. UAE has become the first Arab country to appoint a State Minister for happiness. It is a true giant leap in the times of political chaos, emerging of new security threats, declining of oil prices and narrowing of fiscal surpluses in the region and around the globe.

Ministry of Happiness: A Complete Package

It is not just about rosy words or high philosophies but based on actual plans, policies, programs and projects. It is all about the UAE’s national priority to move forward and implement diversified but integrated policies to achieve and sustain high rates of socio-economic prosperity, result-oriented service sector, resilient financial & banking applications and derivatives and above all provision of basic necessities of life to be promised and delivered at “door steps” to its people and expatriates alike.

Holistic Approach

UAE’s ministry of happiness is based on “holistic approach” of economic equality, dignity of people, gender equality, robust social development and discrimination free system and society. It highlights “feel good gesture” in the times of economic uncertainties, unemployment, declining of FDIs and corporate profits as well.

Strategic Orientation

UAE’s ministry of happiness is outlined the strategic orientation of the country for the next decade. It is about caring and nurturing of weaker sections of the society. It is about planning of SME in the country for creating more and more jobs. It is all about further institutionalization of “Emiratization” in the country.

Divine Concept

Happiness is a “divine concept” may be different in different group, societies and regions. But it has universal appeal and globalized commodity. It has been one the driving forces of human growth in the ancient Greek, Roman and Chinese civilizations. It occurred in the minds of ancient Greek philosopher Plato and Aristotle. It is enshrined in the USA’s constitution which protects the pursuits of happiness as an unalienable right.

Foremost National Priority

Happiness has always been a key part of public life and political philosophy. From time immortal, man is in search of happiness. Since its inception, “wellbeing of citizen is a priority”. It is a mutual understanding between different communities. It is an essential virtue in a law criminalizes discrimination, intolerance on the ground of religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, color and the last but not the least, ethnicity.

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It is crystal clear from the important statement of the founder of nation, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

“From the formation of the UAE, we realized that the union is the means to strength and progress and way to make people happy and provide a decent life for them and future generations”.

His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum also endorses his vision and says “ensuring happiness of citizens has always been a priority in the framework of the founding fathers.

Sheikh Mohammed said on Twitter: “We want a government that works on building the skills of its people, aside from providing services … a government focused on putting the happiness of citizens at the forefront of its priorities.

“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 opportunities for all.”

Innovative Post/Ministry

It is a new post in the UAE which is very innovative. It has strategic orientation. It has globalized look. It has inbuilt conflict resolution. It is made for peace, progress and persuasion of high levels of “Emiratization”. It will align and drive UAE government policy to create social good and satisfaction among its people and expatriates too.

Facilitation of Pursuits of Happiness

It will strengthen knowledge based economy. It will bring women into main stream of national life, politics, management and above all decision making. It will facilitate people to pursuit their dreams of happy life in the future. It is full of youth, energy and determination. It is a new concept to achieve sustainable economic growth and social development in the country.

Strategic Balance

It will create strategic balance among the different sectors of the economy, productive channels and industrialization in order to preserve self-respect, national dignity and above all humanity. Happiness should be a way of life for the UAE, and that all cabinet ministers will be responsible for it. State Minister for happiness will responsible for “channelling policies and plans to achieve a happier society” and “create social good and satisfaction.

World-wide Focus

Economists have now begun to use research into happiness to explore questions in economics, policy, and management. Betsey Stevenson of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania surveys the work in this emerging field. Localization is the economics of happiness because it is about restoring that human connection and care.

Minister of Happiness

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Ohood Al Roumi has been appointed State Minister of Happiness in the UAE. She is Director General (DJ) of the Prime Minister’s Office of the UAE. She cares multiple strategic projects and initiatives such as the UAE Vision 2021, The National Agenda, the UAE Government Strategy, The Government Summit, Government Performance Management System “Adaa”, and Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation. She also overseas Sheikh Khalifa Government Excellence Program, Mohammed Bin Rashid Government Excellence Award, UAE Government Leaders Program, Emirates Government Service Excellence Program, Global Star Rating System for Services, Best M-Government Service and Mohammed Bin Rashid Policy Majlis. She has dynamic personality and diversified expertise too.

Most recently, she has been selected by the United Nations Foundation (UNF) for membership to the Global Entrepreneurship Council (GEC), making her the first Arab member in the council. She also made the Young Global Leaders (YGL) list at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the year 2012 and is a board member of Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation.

She holds an Executive Master’s in Business Administration (EMBA) from the University of Sharjah and a Bachelor’s in Economics from the College of Business and Economics, United Arab Emirates University. She is also a graduate from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Program for Leadership Development.

World Happiness Report (2015)

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.

The four pillars of GNH are sustainable development, environmental protection, cultural preservation and good governance.

Country/Private Sector Details
Bhutan It started to use the “gross national happiness” (GNH) index instead of GDP as criteria for the state’s efficiency in 1972.
Venezuela 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. It worked.
Ecuador Ecuador’s State Secretary of Buen Vivir (“Good Living”), Freddy Ehlers, was appointed in 2013 to make the nation more content.
UK The British government has an office in Whitehall studying how to track well-being, using happiness as a base (2014)
USA The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is incorporating novel measures of well-being into national health statistics.
UNO UNO general assembly adopted a resolution and recognized pursuits of happiness is fundamental human goal (2012)
International Institute of Management It proposed a gross national well-being index (2005)
Gallup Organization It has been measuring well-being worldwide for more than a decade
University of Oxford It launched the multidimensional poverty index that promotes analysis of psychological well-being (2013)
UAE State Minister of Happiness (2016)

Along with the Ministry of Happiness, the UAE has also created the Ministry of Tolerance which will also be headed by Lubna al-Qassimi, a veteran minister of international cooperation and development, handed the new post of state minister for tolerance. The post of Minister of State for Tolerance has been created to promote tolerance as a fundamental value in UAE society.

Concluding Remarks

Every human being is in search of happiness. Happiness is a divine concept which needs to be explored through a holistic approach. Economic development that alleviates poverty is a vital step in boosting happiness. But it is not the only parameter of happiness. So, relentless pursuit of Gross National Product (GNP) to the exclusion of other goals is also no path to happiness. In most of the advanced countries the GNP has risen sharply in the past 40 years, but happiness has not. Resultantly, single-minded pursuit of GNP has led to great economic inequalities of wealth and power, fueled the growth of a vast underclass, trapped millions of children in poverty, and caused serious environmental degradation around the globe especially Africa, some countries of South East Asia and Latin America.

True and pure happiness is achieved through a balanced approach to life by individuals, societies and governances. If we allow corporate profits to dominate all other aspirations: fairness, justice, trust, physical and mental health, and environmental sustainability then happiness would be diminishing stage. Better governance in the fields of system and markets would bring back the desired levels of happiness from the lost paradise.

The mad pursuit of corporate profits is threatening us all. We must promote environmental sustainability and the values of compassion and honesty that are required for social trust.
Our Happiness Range

The economics of happiness is an innovative tool to measure happiness of people at large. Various research studies have revealed what factors in life are correlated with greater happiness. Being a top happiest country in the GCC and MENA, the UAE has rightly appointed a new ministry i.e. happiness which would definitely cares about the wishes of its people for the pursuits of greater economic prosperity and sustainable growth in the days to come.

UAE’s governance is people friendly. It has strategic orientation too. It has clear and comprehensive plans to achieve desired goals of socio-economic prosperity, zero carbon footnotes, development of renewables and discrimination system and society. Creation of ministries of happiness and tolerance is a giant step in right direction. It means a lot to its government, system, people and elements of peace and harmony in the society. It would mean sustainable development, environment friendly policies, strengthening of pure Emirati values and above all promotion of good governance.

Economics is directly correlated with happiness where tolerance plays an important role. UAE is the dream country for all workers. It second home to all expatriates. It is the true reflection of universal togetherness. It is ideal hub of humanity. It is the best example of co-existence and cross-culture. It is the happiest country in the region in all real terms of economic development, social progress and discrimination free policies. In the times of political crises, economic meltdowns, communal riots, doctrine divergences and above all conspiratorial role of non-state actors, UAE ministries of HAPPINESS & TOLERANCE would play decisive role against all anti-development and anti-human perceptions, policies, programs and propagandas.

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