Can a Revamped Government Steer the UAE Through the Pandemic?

Can a Revamped Government Steer the UAE Through the Pandemic?
A lone taxi cab drives over a typically gridlocked highway in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 6, 2020 (AP photo by Jon Gambrell).

Amid its struggles with the public health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the United Arab Emirates announced a wide-ranging restructuring of federal government agencies and senior personnel last month. The UAE’s prime minister and vice president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who rules the emirate of Dubai, detailed the shake-up in a series of tweets, saying it was intended to craft an “agile government quick in solidifying the achievement of our nation.”

Previous government reshuffles in the small but wealthy Gulf nation were notable for their public relations aspects, such as the creation in 2016 of two new ministers for happiness and tolerance and last year’s launch of a new, virtual Ministry of Possibilities. But this latest shake-up was much more serious in tone and substance, reflecting the severity of the economic and social pressures facing the UAE.

Overall, the restructuring provides a clear indication of the Emirati government’s policy orientation as it adapts to the COVID-19 era. The country’s most important economic sectors have been hit hard by the sharp decline in tourism and the collapse of the global oil market, and the 2020 Dubai Expo, which the Emirati government had envisioned as a shot in the arm for a troubled economy, has been postponed until next year.

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