In many countries, politicians frequently make more than the average citizen. This is especially true of countries’ leaders. While the size of a president’s or prime minister’s paycheck varies considerably between countries, world leaders are on the whole paid very well.
The countries with the highest GDP per capita often have the best-paid leaders. In these 20 countries, GDP per capita ranges from $97,639 in Luxembourg to $37,519 in Japan. While the leaders’ salaries do not align perfectly with their countries’ GDP per capita, there is an interesting trend. In Singapore, which trails only Luxembourg in wealth, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong earns an estimated $1.8 million annually and is by far the highest paid leader. On the other hand, in Iceland, which is among the least wealthy countries considered, Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has the lowest salary of the 20 leaders, with an annual salary of $133,729.
Of course, leaders of absolute monarchies and of a number of constitutional monarchies are generally among the wealthiest people on the planet. However, they were excluded from this list because incomes of sultans, emirs, and kings are frequently unavailable.
Even when looking at primarily Western, relatively wealthy parliamentary democracies, the national governments are often organized differently from one another. While many countries have both a head of state and a head of government — a president and a prime minister, for example — the position that holds the greater power depends on the nation.
In France, President François Hollande, the head of state, holds more power in the country than the head of government, Prime Minister Manuel Valls. The hierarchy is reversed in Germany, where the head of government, Chancellor Angela Merkel, holds the highest position of power over the country’s president, Joachim Gauck.
Similarly, the top of a country’s political hierarchy may be in name only. Austria’s President Heinz Fischer, as the head of state, is regarded as holding the highest office in the country. Fischer is also paid more than Austria’s Chancellor Werner Faymann. Yet, Faymann holds greater sway over national affairs.
The annual salaries of world leaders are always well above the GDP per capita — one measure of what ordinary residents earn each year. In all of these countries, the annual salary of the leader is at least three times the country’s GDP per capita. In Singapore, the head of government earns more than 20 times the country’s GDP per capita.
Annual pay, however, almost never captures the full financial benefits of holding a country’s most powerful position. For example, a country’s highest ranking official is almost always provided a residence which is run and maintained with taxpayers money. In the United States, presidents also receive retirement pensions equal to the compensation of cabinet secretaries. Congress can change the size of this pension, but in past year, the annual pension benefits granted to former presidents has been around half the acting president’s annual pay of $400,000. The prestige associated with a country’s highest-ranking position also often leads to far more lucrative opportunities such as book deals and speaking fees.
These are 20 of the world’s highest paid leaders.