You may think that those wishing to suffer extreme public scrutiny while making decisions that affect millions of citizens would demand the big bucks, but when it comes to pay, many world leaders look like chumps compared to the CEOs of many corporations. While most salaries pale in comparison to the likes of Warren Buffett's, some are downright huge when compared to the people a leader may govern. (For more on what high level CEOs make, check out A Guide To CEO Compensation.)

TUTORIAL: Greatest Investors

Top 10 Political Leader's Salary by Country (2010):
1. Lee Hsien Loong (Singapore): $2,183,516
2. Donald Tsang (Hong Kong): $513,245
3. Raila Odinga (Kenya): $427,886
4. Barack Obama (United States): $400,000
5. Nicolas Sarkozy (France): $302,435
6. Stephen Harper (Canada): $296,400
7. Mary McAleese (Ireland): $287,900
8. Julia Gillard (Australia): $286,752
9. Angela Merkel (Germany): $283,608
10. Yoshihiko Noda (Japan): $273,676

Salary Compared to GDP
What makes a world leader's pay reasonable or outlandish? One way of making this call is by looking at pay compared to a country's GDP per person at purchasing power parity (PPP). Using PPP helps make a better estimate of just how far money goes in a country, since the cost of living will vary from country to country. Comparing each leader's salary (in international dollars) to the IMF's 2010 PPP figures shows how much more a world leader makes compared to an average joe at home.

1. Raila Odinga (Kenya): 255.30
2. Lee Hsien Loong (Singapore): 38.51
3. Donald Tsang (Hong Kong): 11.17
4. Nicolas Sarkozy (France): 8.92
5. Barack Obama (United States): 8.54
6. Yoshihiko Noda (Japan): 8.08
7. Angela Merkel (Germany): 7.86
8. Stephen Harper (Canada): 7.57
9. Mary McAleese (Ireland): 7.29
10. Julia Gillard (Australia): 7.21

What do these numbers mean? Looking at GDP per person doesn't show how a country stacks up in terms of income inequality, a statistic that can measured using the Gini coefficient. Ranking the leaders by their country's income inequality can really show how far out of touch a leader is with those governed. The Gini coefficient changes things up (zero means perfect equality and one perfect inequality). (For more on Gini, see The Gini Index: Measuring Income Distribution.)

1. Donald Tsang (Hong Kong): 0.434
2. Raila Odinga (Kenya): 0.425
3. Lee Hsien Loong (Singapore): 0.425
4. Barack Obama (United States): 0.408
5. Julia Gillard (Australia): 0.352
6. Mary McAleese (Ireland): 0.343
7. Nicolas Sarkozy (France): 0.327
8. Stephen Harper (Canada): 0.326
9. Angela Merkel (Germany): 0.283
10. Yoshihiko Noda (Japan): 0.249

Base Salary Vs. Perks
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). (If you are interested in investing abroad by taking advantage of these statistics, see Investing Beyond Your Borders.)

Related Articles
  1. Economics

    How Bernie Sanders Has Avoided Big Money (Mostly)

    Bernie Sanders hasn't entirely avoided PACs with his fundraising, but he has gotten a lot of bang for the buck
  2. Investing News

    Obama Wants to Double Wall Street Regulation

    President Obama wants to double the budgets of the SEC and the CFTC over the next five years.
  3. Economics

    Does Big Money Hurt or Help Clinton and Rubio?

    Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton lead their parties in raising money from Wall Street. Is that a help or a hindrance?
  4. Budgeting

    Lost Your Job? 6 Things to Do Immediately

    If you’ve lost your job, shoring up your finances as best you can will make it easier to get back on your feet again when that next position rolls around.
  5. Fundamental Analysis

    The Evolution of Obamacare Since Its Inception

    Find out whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has lived up to its lofty projections from 2010.
  6. Professionals

    Broker Or Trader: Which Career Is Right For You?

    Both brokers and traders buy and sell securities, but there are some subtle differences between the two careers.
  7. Personal Finance

    Don't Sign That Non-Compete Without Reading This

    Non-compete contracts aren't just for high-level execs these days. How to protect yourself if your employer – or prospective employer – insists you sign one.
  8. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in Lockheed Martin Stock (LMT)

    Learn about defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, its leadership within its industry, and how the company can stay on top as the defense landscape changes.
  9. Investing News

    Chipotle Served with Criminal Probe

    Chipotle's beat muted expectations and got a clear bill from the CDC, but it now appears that an investigation into its E.coli breakout has expanded.
  10. Your Practice

    How to Save for Retirement Like a Wealthy CEO

    Don't have a CEO's income? You can still employ a millionaire’s saving strategy when it comes to planning for retirement.
RELATED FAQS
  1. How does a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) affect my salary?

    Some companies build salary adjustments into their compensation structures to offset the effects of inflation on their employees. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How much money does Florida make from unclaimed property each year?

    Each year, goods such as money, financial investments and physical property are either auctioned off or appraised before ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How much money does New York make from unclaimed property each year?

    According to the Office of the New York State Comptroller, types of unclaimed property accounts include bank accounts, wages, ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Does working capital include salaries?

    A company accrues unpaid salaries on its balance sheet as part of accounts payable, which is a current liability account, ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Do financial advisors need to meet quotas?

    Most financial advisors are required to meet quotas, particularly if they work for firms that pay base salaries or draws ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the Social Security administration responsible for?

    The main responsibility of the U.S. Social Security Administration, or SSA, is overseeing the country's Social Security program. ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  2. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
  3. Presidential Election Cycle (Theory)

    A theory developed by Yale Hirsch that states that U.S. stock markets are weakest in the year following the election of a ...
  4. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
  5. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
Trading Center