Dubai: It was almost 48 years ago when the UAE dirham that was signed by late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum as the then UAE Minister of Finance, first appeared in circulation. The bank note became not only the official currency, but also a symbol of national unity. The UAE dirham, in turn, became an enduring legacy of Sheikh Hamdan, who passed away on Wednesday. As the first UAE Minister of Finance, Sheikh Hamdan’s signature appeared along side the signature of the then chairman of the Board of Directors of the UAE Central Bank on the UAE dirham that was introduced in circulation for the first time on May 19, 1973. The UAE dirham replaced the Qatari and Dubai riyal that were in circulation since 1966 in all of the emirates, except in Abu Dhabi, where the Bahraini dinar was previously used. Before 1966, all the emirates that now constitute the UAE used the Gulf rupee, which was pegged at the same value as the Indian rupee.
The first dirham currency notes issued by the Central Bank in 1973 were in Dh1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 denominations. Three years later, the Dh1,000 note was released. All notes issued had both Arabic and English lettering and were emblazoned with various UAE landmarks — as is the practice even today.
There had been several changes in the position of the UAE Central Bank chairman, but the one thing that remained constant through all these years was the signature of Sheikh Hamdan, who served as the Finance Minister until his death.
In a tribute by the Ministry of Finance, Sheikh Hamdan was praised for his contributions to national development. “He was responsible for developing the financial and economic sectors of the UAE. He improved efficiency in financial planning and federal budgeting that has increased 300 times over the decades. He also constituted the Government Financial Policy Coordinator Council that oversees financial data and prepares the government’s financial policies.”
The Ministry of Finance enumerated several achievements under Sheikh Hamdan: “He worked on improving the efficiency of monetary management and government spending and supported vital sectors. He ensured the sustainability of the federal government’s financial resources by diversifying its resources and directed a system of sound financial legislation. He also worked on enhancing UAE’s competitiveness and contribution to the signing of tax and tax information exchange agreements.”
Late Sheikh Hamdan also made his mark not only in terms of the country’s political and economic development, but he was also a remarkable icon of social, cultural and sporting life in the UAE.