Sydney Morning Herald
Everyone knows politicians aren’t in it for the money.
But the aspiring, and skint, world leader who is looking for a country to run in these belt-tightening times should head for Asia, where the salaries far exceed anything even the White House can manage.
Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, earns the equivalent of $3.8 million a year. That’s six times more than president-elect Barack Obama will earn when he takes office in the United States next month, nine times more than Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and almost 12 times more than Kevin Rudd.
Mr Lee will take a 19 per cent pay cut next year in response to the global financial crisis, but should still be able to scrape by.
Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang swings a mean pay satchel, too, pulling down $775,000 a year.
But one of the world’s top pay-per-population earners has to be Ireland’s Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, who draws $624,000 for running a country of 4 million.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s official stipend is tiny – one fifth of the Irish PM’s – but Mr Putin’s personal fortune is said to be considerable.
The US evidently sees little need to offer massive financial rewards to its president, who usually has to be a multimillionaire to run for office.
The President’s $597,000 pay cheque is skimpy considering he is running the world’s biggest economy, and it was half that until as recently as 2001.
Self-denial among leaders doesn’t come much greater than Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, who made good on a campaign pledge to halve his salary when he won office in 2006. He takes just $32,000 a year, still fairly handy for a cocoa farmer and former llama herder.
Mr Rudd will never be short of a dollar, thanks mainly to his wife’s wealth, but his $330,000 pay packet also puts him in a respectable position. He earns more than many regional leaders, including those in Malaysia and Thailand, but only a smidgen over his New Zealand counterpart, John Key.
The newly elected money market millionaire is another who is definitely not in it for the moolah, reportedly giving much of his salary to charity.
Mr Rudd falls $30,000 short of Governor-General Quentin Bryce, a peculiarity caused by her remuneration formula being tied in part to the salary of the chief justice.
The Prime Minister is only $30,000 ahead of the highest earning premier, Western Australia’s Colin Barnett. Federal backbenchers earn a couple of thousand dollars less than those in Mr Barnett’s former boom state.
Nathan Rees, leader of the largest state, earns less than three other premiers – Mr Barnett, Anna Bligh in Queensland and Mike Rann in South Australia.
MPs earn twice the average weekly wage.