A Look At Some Of The World's 'Poorest' And 'Richest' World Leaders

Apparently, the PM of Bangladesh earns less than what this writer makes.

Cover image via Straits Times & Live Mint

Editor's note:

They are the leaders of their respective countries and state, yet while some of them make less in a full year than what a member of their citizenry can easily make within a year; on the other hand, there's also few leaders who make so much in a day that it's hard to fathom what they make in a full year.

PS: The leaders in this list appear in no particular order.

Back in 2012, the BBC called José Mujica, the ex-President of Uruguay (his term ended in 1 March 2015), the "world's poorest President", and the world came to adore him for his frugality, the simplicity of his lifestyle, and sometimes his lack of shoes. And why not, he lived on a ramshackle farm and gave away most of his pay.

Jose Mujica, center.

Image via Matilde Campodonico/AP

The details about Mujica's austere lifestyle were astounding:

He donated about 90% of his monthly salary, equivalent to USD12,000 (RM46,536), to charity.

As the President of Uruguay, Mujica shunned the luxurious house that the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders and opted to stay at his wife's farmhouse, off a dirt road outside the capital, Montevideo, the BBC reported.

He and his wife worked the land themselves and grew flowers.

He was elected in 2009. Prior to that, Mujica spent the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, a leftist armed group inspired by the Cuban revolution. He was shot six times and spent 14 years in prison. Most of his detention was spent in harsh conditions and isolation, until he was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy.

Those years in prison, Mujica says, helped shape his outlook on life. "I'm called 'the poorest president', but I don't feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more," he says.

A pictorial glimpse into Mujica's life:

The President makes himself a brew. No butlers or flunkeys here.

Image via Guardian L V

José Mujica, the Uruguayan president, at his house in Montevideo.

Image via MARIO GOLDMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Mujica posing for a picture in front of his farmhouse.

Image via Andres Stapff/Reuters

However, Mujica isn't the "world's 'poorest' leader" anymore. According to new reports, Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala is now called "world's 'poorest' leader". The 75-year-old Koirala, apart from having 3 mobile phones – one of which is an iPhone and another doesn't actually work, has no other assets to his name.

Image via

That's not much, even compared to Mujica, whose only listed possession is a 20-year-old Volkswagon Beetle, reportedly valued at USD1,900 in 2010. Koirala reportedly owns no land either: He lived in a rented house until recently; he's now residing in the prime minister's official residence.

Koirala's lifestyle is said to come from his simple tastes. According to the BBC, he even gave back $650 he had received as an allowance for a recent trip to Burma.

Both Mujica and Koirala's frugality seem to have been influenced by their radical younger years: Mujica was formerly member of the left-wing guerrilla group Tupamaros, while Koirala was jailed in his 30s for his involvement in a plane hijacking.

Mr Koirala, who has been involved in politics from a young age, has had a clean image from the start. Even in his hometown of Nepalgunj in western Nepal, Mr Koirala does not have any land, unusual in a country where people normally associated politicians with wealth.

He stays at the residence of his brother whenever he visits the city.

"He is a man of very simple tastes," says journalist Netra KC, who is based in Nepalgunj. "In fact, he depended upon the largesse of his party workers and the government even when he had to go to the United States for medical treatment."

Taking a glimpse into the life of Koirala:

PM Sushil Koirala (C) with leaders of different political parties from Gorkha and Dhading districts at his official residence in Baluwatar.

Image via The Himalayan Times

Koirala performing a special pooja at Nepal Army's Bhairavnath Battalion, before entering Baluwatar along with his relatives, staff, lawmakers close to him and some cadres.

Image via Setopati

Sushil Koirala at the residence of Indra B. Tamang for dinner.

Image via Hermitage

Next is the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope. While technically the Pope is not a leader, still, he is among some of the most powerful world leaders. The current Pope, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and known as Francis, has been known for being humble and living a simple and frugal way of life. His annual pay is zero.

Image via CatholicIreland

Before joining the seminary, he worked as a chemical technician and a nightclub bouncer. At the age of 33, he was ordained a priest and, for 6 years, he was Argentina's Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus. In 1998, he became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and, 3 years later, he was created a Cardinal.

Francis has been known for being humble and living a simple and frugal way of life.

Instead of living in the papal apartments of the Apostolic Palace, he chooses to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae guesthouse. He also chooses to wear simpler garments without any ornamentation.

He strongly emphasises that Christians have an obligation to assist the poor and the needy, as well as promotes peace negotiating and interfaith dialogue.

Pope Francis showed his humility from the outset:

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio washes and kisses the feet of residents of a shelter for drug.

Image via America Magazine

Pope Francis replaces his zucchetto after a young boy removed it during an audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican.

Image via Giampiero Sposito | Catholic News Service/Reuters

Pope Francis paying his own bill at the church-run residence where he was staying before becoming pontiff, despite now effectively being in charge of the business.

Image via New Republic

Meanwhile, Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, is said to have a monthly salary of USD800 (RM3,100). Sheikh is ranked at #59 in Forbes' list of the 'World's 100 Most Powerful Women'.

Image via The Hindu

Her political career has spanned more than four decades during which she has been both Prime Minister and opposition leader. She has been the leader of the ruling Awami League since 1981, and her father, Skeikh Mujibur Rahman, was the first President of the country and assassinated in 1975.

As opposition leader, she herself was the target of an assassination attempt in 2004.

Now let's look at the other extreme

In comparison, Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong's annual salary is USD1.7 million, that's 12 and a half times more than Putin earns in a year. Not just that, Loong's salary is large enough to pay for the leader's salary of India, Brazil, Italy, Russia, France, Turkey, Japan, United Kingdom, South Africa, and Germany.

Image via cnbc

What's more interesting is that his haul trumps salaries paid to the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom combined.

Lee, whose salary was cut by 28% following public unhappiness, had been earning more than $2.8m from 2008 to 2012.

On the other hand, PM Najib Razak earns an annual salary of about USD100,000 (RM388,250), which is a lot more than what Chinese President Xi Jinping and India's Narendra Modi, two of the most prominent world leaders from Asia, make, President Xi makes about USD22,000 a year, and Mr. Modi makes about USD30,000.

Not just that, the land on which Najib's official residence is built measures 42.5 hectares, which is almost three times larger than the land the White House stands on, which is only 18 hectares.

And here's a chart that lists the salaries of major world leaders:

Image via BI


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