A president, as the head of a society, council, or other organization, has – by the very nature of his or her position – a significant claim to power and status. And, in any organisation from the democratic to the totalitarian, a president is essential. Without a leader to oversee the smooth running of a nation or organisation, to maintain the economy, and to be on constant alert to the needs of the people, anarchy is all but inevitable. The responsibility of a president, on a national scale, is quite a cumbersome – it’s with the president that the buck stops, and ultimately the welfare of the nation rests on his or her shoulders.
On the other hand, money is something that all humans crave and, no matter how strenuously we might assert that money doesn’t guarantee our happiness, it’s usually a very prominent part of it. And while being elected president of a country is arguably a priceless accolade, the draw of an impressive salary likely helps attract the most ambitious and talented candidates. Some presidents’ annual salary, then, may come as a shock. The presidents on our list have, for varying reasons, salaries lower than even the average American. While this certainly doesn’t necessarily reflect on the quality of their leadership, the stories behind these relatively impoverished world leaders are fascinating. These 5 poorest presidents serve as examples that the rewarding life of a leader doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with a rewarding salary.
5. Borut Pahor, Slovenia- $44,280
Former Prime Minister Pahor’s journey to a political career began in high school. He was only 15 when he became the chairman of his school’s student’s section of the Alliance of Socialist Youth of Slovenia, an independent youth branch of the Communist Party and his studies at the University of Ljubljiana consisted of political science and public policy – although he ventured into the world of male modelling to help pay for his studies. After the Youth Alliance detached itself from the Communist Party, Pahor continued his political career in the Communist Party itself, rising to popularity in the late 80s by becoming the strongest supporter of the reformist wing of the Communist Party. He became chairman for the Slovenian National Assembly from 2000 to 2004 and became a member of the European Parliament soon after.
In 2008 Pahor was appointed President, and with the government committed to austerity measures Pahor had to pay his own representation fees. In 2010, the AFP reported that the Slovenian president said he couldn’t survive with only his salary; at the time, about 3000 euros a month. After being in power for 3 years, Pahor’s government lost a vote of confidence amid an economic crisis and political strain. but he continued as a temporary leader before he was replaced by Janez Jansa In February of 2012.
4. Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe- $20 000
February 21st 1924 saw the birth of future president, Robert Mugabe. He graduated with a BA from the University of Fort Hare in Zimbabwe, as well as earning six other degrees, including a BA of Administration from the University of South Africa and a BA of Science from the University of London’s External Programme. In 1960, Mugabe’s political career began in Southern Rhodesia with his joining the National Democratic Party (NDP). When the NDP was banned, Mugabe joined the Zimbabwe African National Union but after a murder was linked to the group, its leaders including Mugabe were arrested.
In 1974, while still in jail, Mugabe was put in charge of ZANU. After his release a year later, Mugabe travelled to Mozambique where he continued his campaign under protective custody. After the Rhodesian War came to an end, Mugabe surfaced as an African hero. He then called for reconciliation between all former clashing parties; he won the general elections in 1980 and, incidentally, received his title on the day of Zimbabwe’s Independence.
He has brought about a lot of positive change for Zimbabwe. For example, he began to reform the economy in the 1990s. With all this, Mugabe still earns only a modest salary, and – with children in private schools and at university – the family reportedly supplement their income with farming.
3. Jose Mujica, Uruguay- $12, 000
Often cited as the poorest president in the world and number three on our list, the president of Uruguay has been given that title due to his extreme generosity and what has been described as an ‘austere’ lifestyle. Mujica, born in 1935, was arrested for his involvement in the left-wing guerilla group in Uruguay, Tupamaros, in the late 60s. Mujica spent 14 years in prison and was released under an amnesty in 1985.
Mujica was involved in left-wing politics and went on to create his own political party, the Movement of Popular Participation (MPP). In the 1994 general elections, Mujica was elected as a deputy and, five years later, he was elected a senator. By 2004, the MPP had become the largest party in the Broad Front faction. In 2005, Mujica became the Minister of Agriculture and a year later, he became president with over 48% of the votes – making him the first former guerilla fighter to ever become president.
And from whence comes his meagre salary? Following in the grand tradition of former U.S. presidents John F. Kennedy and President Hoover, the Presiden of Uruguay donates 90% of his salary to charity.
2. Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan- $6,300
Hamid Karzai, born in 1957, comes from a political family; his father was Deputy Speaker of the Parliament in the 1960s, his grandfather was Deputy Speaker of the Senate in the 1920s and his uncle was Afghanistan’s representative in the UN in the 60s. Karzai himself studied political science at Himachal Pradesh University in India and obtained a master’s degree.
After completing is education, he worked a fundraiser in Pakistan to aid the anti-communist party during the Soviet War in Afghanistan in the 80s. After leading the mujahdeen leaders (Islamic guerilla fighters) into Kabul after the collapse of the Soviet government, he served as Deputy Foreign Minister. However, his vice president, Mohammad Fahim, accused him of spying and arrested him soon after. When the Taliban came to fruition in the early 90s, he initially believed that they were a legitimate form of government that would help to solve the corruption in Afghanistan. However, after the Taliban supposedly assassinated his father, he began work to destroy them.
In late 2001, he and his cabinet overthrew the Taliban regime. He attended the International Conference on Afghanistan in Germany and was selected by renowned Afghan politicians to serve as Chairman of the Interim Administration for a six-month term. A year later, he was chosen to serve as Interim President for two years. He won the 2004 presidential election and became President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – winning a second five-year term in 2009.
There has been some controversy over Karzai’s salary; as of 2010, it was reported he was officially receiving a salary of $525 a month; but in 2013, it was reported by several media outlets including the New York Times that the CIA regularly brought ‘wads of American dollars’ to the Afghani president’s office; make of that what you will!
1. Pope Francis, Vatican -$0
The Pope is not technically a president, but as the head of the Catholic Church he is one of the most powerful world leaders; Pope Francis is the absolute Sovereign of the Vatican City, the smallest independent state in the world, as well as being head of the Roman Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome. Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the current Pope was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His first jobs before joining the seminary were a chemical technician and a nightclub bouncer. At the age of 33, he was ordained a priest and, for 6 years, he was Argentina’s Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus. In 19998, he became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and, 3 years later, he was created a Cardinal.
After Pope Benedict XVI resigned, Bergoglio was elected his successor. Francis is the papal name he chose in honor of St Francis of Assisi. Francis is the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from the Americas, the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, as well as the first non-European Pope in 1272 years.
Francis has been known for being humble and living a simple and frugal way of life. Instead of living in the papal apartments of the Apostolic Palace, he chooses to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae guesthouse. He also chooses to wear simpler garments without any ornamentation. He strongly emphasizes that Christians have an obligation to assist the poor and the needy, as well as promotes peace negotiating and interfaith dialogue.
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