If you are a citizen in Dubai and if you are unhappy, then expect a call from the local police. Authorities in the city launched a survey on Wednesday (24 October) and asked citizens to choose from a frown, a smile or an unimpressed straight line, indicating whether or not they were happy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The online poll comes as the city is aiming to break into the top-10 rankings of world's happiest cities by 2021, which marks the country's 50th founding anniversary.
William Davies, a senior lecturer at the University of London told the Associated Press: "This looks to me like an attempt to try to slightly frighten people into a) replying to the questions and b) replying to say they're happy because people really don't want to be rung by the local police with the question: Well, what's your problem?" He added: "But I don't know. Maybe there's something sincere about it."
He further warned that the happiness issue could "divert attention away from broader political or economic factors that might actually be... problematic or unjust".
"It's possible to imagine a society which had great concern for happiness but very little concern for, say, human rights or the rights of minorities," Davies said.
Authorities have set up computers in government offices across Dubai to allow citizens to provide a feedback about their experience. Last year, as part of the "smart government" push, a ranking system was launched to learn if citizens were happy about municipal offices, including the Dubai police.
Under the current survey, police in Dubai have sent text messages and a link to a webpage asking citizens to answer the one question, "Are you happy in Dubai?" According to the police, they had received more than 200,000 responses on the first day itself. It was reported that 84% of the respondents said that they were happy, while 6% were neutral and 10% were unhappy.
Dubai's police chief Major General Khamis Mattar Al Mazeina said that they [the police] would call random people from those who claimed they were "unhappy" and if they were unhappy about something under our jurisdiction, the "we will help them... but if it has to do with another government entity, we will forward the issue to the concerned department".
However, he clarified that the police would not help those who were facing personal problems. UAE was ranked 20th on the United Nations' 2015 World Happiness Report, out of 158 countries, but is ranked number one in the Arab world.