2010-07-15 / Sam Bari

What’s it worth to be a world leader?

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

At one time or another, we have all fantasized about living in the lap of luxury as a monarch of one of the world’s wealthiest kingdoms. If not that, we have envied the power and economic independence enjoyed by leaders of wealthy countries.

After looking into the realities, I would not be so hasty as to be envious of all of them. The salaries of a few leaders of the world’s most powerful countries might surprise you. The pay is certainly not worth the headache.

Also, the wealth of leaders of countries that you would never suspect to be at the top of the list is astounding. Let’s take a look.

Number one on the Forbes list for the second year in a row is Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The world’s longest-reigning monarch is a landowner whose holdings include 3,493 acres of Bangkok. He also owns stakes in the publicly listed Siam Cement and Siam Commercial Bank.

His net worth: $28.141 billion in U.S. currency.

I’ll bet you thought it would be an oil-rich Middle East country, but that is not the case. Not that those countries are any too shabby, with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia coming in with a net worth of $14.91 billion in U.S. dollars.

One that is most surprising is the leader of an oil-rich country that has been at odds with the U.S. and its allies for quite some time. The leader of this country is not to be commended for his ideology and political motivation. However, his integrity as a president who sets a good example for his constituents is quite incredible.

The leader is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was recently reelected in a highly controversial election as the sixth and current president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is one of the most feared leaders in the civilized world.

According to the Encyclopedia of World Biographies, before he was first elected president in 2005, he was the mayor of Tehran. All he owned was a 1977 Peugot 504 and an old small house that he inherited from his father 40 years ago in one of the poorest areas of Tehran.

He still lives in that same house.

The man is president of one of the world’s significant economic powers and his personal bank account is zero. He doesn’t take a personal salary with the argument that all the wealth belongs to the nation and he is the safeguard over it.

One of the things that impressed the Iranian presidential staff is the bag he brings to work with him every day. It contains his breakfast – some sandwiches or bread with olive oil and cheese prepared by his wife. When he took office, he stopped all the deliveries of the special food that was traditionally prepared for the president.

He confirmed these facts in a news interview when he visited the U.S. last year. It is not exactly clear how his expenses are paid, but it is assumed that the state takes care of them.

Here are a few other surprises. One would think that the president of Russia would be paid substantially, but Vladimir Putin was only paid $81,000 when he was president. However, according to Stanislav Belkovsky of the Guardian and confirmed by other Russian economic watchdogs, Putin’s net worth is in the neighborhood of $40 billion U.S. dollars.

This makes him one of the wealthiest men in the world. I wonder how that happened?

Our president, with a $400,000 salary, is at the low end of the scale, coming in beneath Ireland, whose prime minister is paid $434,000, and Italy, whose prime minister makes $27,600,000 per year.

The premier of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, even makes $2.05 million. And Prince Albert of Monaco, one of the world’s smallest countries, is worth $1 billion personally.

To put our president’s salary into perspective, he manages a staff of 2,000,000 federal employees, and combined armed forces of 1,445,000 with 850,000 reservists. That’s a total of 4,295,000 employees for $400,000 per year. That translates to nine cents per employee.

His salary costs the population of the country approximately one-tenth of a cent per person per year.

In 2007, the president of Coca- Cola, E. Neville Isdell, was paid an annual base salary of $1,612,500, with a total compensation and benefits package of $31,884,941. He manages a staff of 92,000 employees.

Little wonder that we live in a system we can’t understand.

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