When it comes to what a leader is really paid, a distinction must be made between base salary and additional stipends. Leaders may receive free residences or residential stipends, free healthcare, free travel and other perks. They may be permitted expenses that most people would have to pay for out of pocket. Those figures are more difficult to come by, especially in the murky world of political influence.
Less scrupulous world leaders may pad their own bank accounts with their own country’s money through corruption. “Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI),” first released in 1995, tracks corruption trends in 178 countries. It assigns a rank of 10 to countries deemed clean, and zero to countries considered highly corrupt. Ranking the leaders by how corrupt their countries are, the ranking shifts to the following:
1. Raila Odinga (Kenya): 2.1
2. Nicolas Sarkozy (France): 6.8
3. Barack Obama (United States): 7.1
4. Yoshihiko Noda (Japan): 7.8
5. Angela Merkel (Germany): 7.9
6. Mary McAleese (Ireland): 8
7. Donald Tsang (Hong Kong): 8.4
8. Julia Gillard (Australia): 8.7
9. Stephen Harper (Canada): 8.9
10. Lee Hsien Loong (Singapore): 9.3
Of these countries, only three would not be considered “full democracies” by the “Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index:” Kenya, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The Bottom Line
What do all of these numbers tell us? Leaders of advanced economies earn very similar salaries to each other, and those countries tend to be less corrupt and more democratic. While Lee Hsien Loong may earn 38 times the average resident of Singapore, his country is considered a good place to do business even if it is not fully democratic. On the other end of the spectrum, Raila Odinga earns an incredible amount more than the people he governs, and presides over a country that Transparency International would consider one of the most corrupt around (ranked 154 out of 178 countries)