But with oil prices at their lowest point since 2003, University of Oklahoma College of International Studies assistant dean Rebecca Cruise speculated there’s an undercurrent of unhappiness in the country.
“This is a country that became big, literally and figuratively, on oil money,” Cruise said. “We know that they have the tallest building in the world and malls with ski lodges in them, and all sorts of other fantastic things.”
It’s not clear exactly what these new position will do, and Nicholas McGeehan, a Human Rights Watch researcher, described the posts as “Orwellian and sinister” in The New York Times:
The government remains dominated by unelected royals, and those who criticize them or engage in political activity risk arrest, prosecution and imprisonment.
“You can be happy as long as you keep your mouth shut,” Mr. McGeehan said. “That is the sort of social contract that is in place there.”
The country’s active economy and open immigration rules have made it a magnet for international talent, and large numbers of skilled professionals from Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon have sought to pursue their fortunes, and their happiness, in the emirates as conditions in their own countries have deteriorated.
Cruise said this isn’t the first time a position like this has been created.
“In 2013 Venezuela created a similar ministry position, which was seen as an honorary position created to carry on the tradition of Chavez after he passed away. All the many things that he was doing to better peoples’ lives. So maybe it’ll be something along those lines, but we didn’t see a lot of positive results out of that.”
— via KGOU