11 of The Highest-Earning Leaders in The World
When we consider the world’s highest paid people, we tend to think of the Elon Musks of this world, or the Chris Pratts and Kim Kardashians. But rarely do we think of heads of government as earning a pretty penny. Nevertheless, some of them do – and you may be surprised which ones.
Listed below are 11 of the highest-paid heads of government in the world and their surprisingly lavish perks – from private jumbo jets to sprawling mansions.
Read on to find out if your head of government made it on the list:
11. Justin Trudeau
Title – Prime Minister of Canada
Salary – US$146,000-US$365,000
The prime minister of Canada lives in a regal, 22-room Georgian Revival home known as Rideau Cottage on the grounds of Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Ontario. Dating back to 1867, Rideau Cottage underwent significant renovations in the year 2000. Its grand entrance is a pedimented porch, and sash windows and paired chimneys give the building a timeless and homey look.
Justin Trudeau might be a darling of world politics, but his US$170,000 holiday to billionaire philanthropist and spiritual leader the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas with his family in 2017 caught the attention of the then conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson. He was eventually found guilty of violating several sections of the federal Conflict of Interest Act as a result.
Another of Trudeau’s family trips – this time a business-related one to India – cost well over US$1 million.
10. Yoshihide Suga
Title – Prime Minister of Japan
Salary – US$255,000
The prime minister of Japan travels in a Boeing 777-300ER, the world’s largest twinjet, which he shares with the Japanese Emperor. The aircraft for the use of the prime minister and his associates features a VIP room and work areas, along with 106 business-class-style seats for guests. The Japanese government in fact maintains two Boeing 777 for the prime minister: one for primary use, and a second to play the role of a backup, complete with maintenance personnel on board.
Often called the “Iron Wall” for his expressionless face and cool responses, teetotaller Suga is the longest-serving chief cabinet secretary in Japanese history – but the same can’t be said of his tenure as prime minister. Due to his handling of the Tokyo Olympics and Covid-19, his ratings fell quickly once he entered office. On September 3, Suga announced that he would not seek re-election as president of his party, which will effectively end his term as prime minister after just one year.
9. Alexander De Croo
Title – Prime Minister of Belgium
Salary – US$267,000
For long-haul flights, Belgium’s prime minister uses an Airbus A321, but also has a Dassault Falcon 90, an Embraer ERJ 135s and two Embraer ERJ 145s at his disposal. Members of the Belgian royal family share the same assemblage of aircraft.
The Flemish liberal became Belgium’s prime minister in October 2020, filling a position that had been vacant for almost two years. Though De Croo flaunts a political pedigree (he is the son of well-known Belgian politician Herman De Croo, a member of the Flemish parliament), he initially worked in the private sector – for the Boston Consulting Group, in a bid to distance himself from his father’s career. Destiny had its way, however, and he is now leading the nation as the prime minister.
8. Xavier Bettel
Title – Prime Minister of Luxembourg
Salary – US$271,000-US$340,000
For his various international travels, the prime minister of Luxembourg has at his disposal a private Cessna 550 Citation II, a Learjet 35A and even a 737-700, chartered from the flag carrier Luxair.
Bettel is Luxembourg’s first – and Europe’s third – openly gay prime minister, and he made history in 2019 with his impassioned speech on LGBTQ+ rights at the UN General Assembly. His small but wealthy country has a population of just 614,000.
7. Jacinda Ardern
Title – Prime Minister of New Zealand
Salary – US$324,000
Not only did Jacinda Ardern give birth in office – the only woman since Pakistan’s prime minister Benazir Bhutto to do so – but, because of her position, she was the first woman to bring her baby to a United Nations General Assembly meeting, too.
Ardern was one of 15 women who appeared on the cover of the September 2019 issue of British Vogue. During the pandemic, Ardern requested a 20 per cent wage cut in solidarity with New Zealand’s five million citizens who lost their jobs or were subjected to a reduced salary as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns in the country.
6. Sebastian Kurz
Title – Chancellor of Austria
Salary – US$328,600
As the government of Austria has never operated a VIP transport aircraft, the Austrian head of state is usually flown on scheduled flights, often using the country’s flag carrier, Austrian Airlines. Official work also allows Kurz to charter a four-seater Saab 105OE (courtesy of the Austrian Air Force) for domestic travel.
Being the youngest head of government in the world – at age 35 – has had its pros and cons for Kurz. The media-savvy chancellor was initially considered to be an Austrian political wunderkind. Known for being a good listener, The Economist described him as “relentlessly polite, cultivating the image of a well-mannered son-in-law”, but notes that his career has been “decidedly bumpy since then” thanks to a series of corruption and perjury scandals.
Today, Kurz is earning about six times the average salary of Austrian citizens as chancellor.
5. Angela Merkel
Title – Chancellor of Germany
Salary – US$369,700
The Konrad Adenauer, aka an Airbus A340-313X VIP, is Merkel’s go-to plane, but she also has access to several other expensive aircraft managed by the German armed forces.
This scientist-turned-world leader became the first female chancellor of Germany in 2005, and is now at the end of her fourth and final term. Despite her party losing at the recent elections, she is still considered to have been the world’s most influential female leader and is credited with steering Germany through its financial crisis and back to growth.
Merkel has likely made a fortune while serving her country, and she earns roughly eight times the average wage of German citizens.
4. Scott Morrison
Title – Prime Minister of Australia
Salary – US$395,500
The Australian prime minister enjoys not one, but two official prime ministerial residences: his primary residence is a Georgian revival style building called The Lodge that dates back to 1927, and the second is Kirribilli House in the Sydney harbour-side suburb of Kirribilli, New South Wales.
The 30th and current prime minister of Australia earns six times the country’s average wage. Morrison began his career as a policy and research manager for the Property Council of Australia before moving into tourism as deputy chief executive of the Australian Tourism Task Force and then general manager of the Tourism Council of Australia. As prime minister, he has faced several challenges, not least strong opposition to his views on climate change, which have earned him the label “climate denier”.
3. Joe Biden
Title – President of the United States
Salary – US$400,000
As if having the run of the six floors and 132 rooms of the White House wasn’t enough, Biden also gets to cruise around in the world-famous Air Force One. With 4,000 sq ft of floor space over three floors, a medical room where emergency surgeries can be carried out, private suites for the president and kitchens with the capacity to feed up to 100 people at a time, this has to be the world’s most well equipped plane.
As president of the world’s largest superpower, one might assume Biden would be the highest-paid leader on this list. But while his salary is certainly a handsome one at US$400,000 a year, it’s often a US president’s post-presidential projects that help them really rake in the cash.
2. Name – Carrie Lam
Title – Chief Executive Hong Kong
Salary – US$672,000
Chief Executive Carrie Lam is regularly driven around in a Lexus LS 600h L hybrid vehicle – and occasionally in a 1997 Mercedes-Benz S500L – but her ride doesn’t have a number plate. Just like a representative of the British Crown, her official limousine has Hong Kong’s emblem on the front and rear instead of the usual number plates.
Hong Kong’s first female leader earned the nickname “tough fighter” for her reputation of never backing down during a political battle and for being something of a workaholic, according to the BBC. After graduating from the University of Hong Kong, Lam began her career in the civil service and became permanent secretary for home affairs by 2008, which entailed active involvement in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Since Lam took on the role of chief executive of Hong Kong in 2017 (and chairperson of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security in 2020), her pay has increased by a hefty 12.4 per cent, based on the cumulative change in the consumer price index.
Despite being one of the top-earning bureaucrats in the world, she is in the unusual position of being stuck with “piles of cash” at home (in her own words) because she has been denied essential banking services due to US sanctions.
In a TV interview with HKIBC, according to the BBC, Lam said: “Sitting in front of you is a chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR who has no banking service made available to her. I’m using cash every day for all the things. I have piles of cash at home, the government is paying me cash for my salary because I don’t have a bank account.”
1. Name – Lee Hsien Loong
Title – Prime Minister of Singapore
Salary – US$1.6 million
The prime minister of Singapore works in the offices of a lavish, 43-hectare (106-acre) estate called The Istana. It is a neo-Palladian-style building that looks like a typical Malay house, flanked by statuesque columns, deep verandas, louvred windows and smart, panelled doors. The central, three-storey tower block dominates the building, and has seen 21 terms of governorship and eight terms of presidential tenures in its time.
Lee sits pretty at the top of this list. For the sake of comparison, his US$1.6 million-a-year salary is 12 times as much as Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, takes home.
Well aware that his pay is the talk of the town (read: world), he once said in an interview, according to the Korea Herald, “The [US] president is paid less than me, yes. But the high-level residents in the White House travel in Air Force One, live in the White House and holiday in Camp David.” Lee also pointed out that US presidents earn millions of dollars long after their tenures are over. Well, he’s not wrong.
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