Asian Conversations - an online magazine to explore Asia's future

If the money's right - Trump donates all

WHILE presidents of multinational companies pull in stratospheric salaries, it is unusual to see executive heads of government compensated beyond a certain point bearing in mind that it is the taxpayer's money they are spending. There is also the issue of how it goes down, politically, in an egalitarian society or one that holds society accountable for monetary thrift, especially in hard times.

So how much do global leaders earn? There are enormous disparities. In January 2015, the Financial Times reported that after a handsome 62 percent increase, Chinese President Xi Jinping, the leader of the most populous country in the world, was awarded a base salary of US$22,250 a year. Indonesia's president earns US$64,000. Compare this with UK Prime Minister Theresa May's £150,402 and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's US$290,000.

But it is in the land of the free and the home of the brave, the United States, that the stakes rise predictably. The US president has since 2001 earned an annual base salary of US$400,000. This is a handsome amount by any reckoning and there are extra goodies - a US$100,000 travel expenses allowance and a US$50,000 expense account for sundries. In mid 2013 as salary cuts took effect in the country, President Obama generously volunteered a reduction in his salary too via a monthly cheque to the Treasury Department. Donald Trump has declared he will go one better by donating his entire US$400,000 annual 2017 paycheck to charity. He donated his 2018 and 2019 earnings too to government agencies like the Surgeon General's office and the US Department fo Agriculture.

But what of tiny nation states that earn far lower GDP? Well, in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also took a salary cut to bring his annual take down to US$1.8 million, putting him just ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin whose take-home is US$1.76 million per annum, and well ahead of Hong Kong, which pays its chief executive just over US$500,000. Some interesting comparisons of salaries against GDP at Investopedia. – AC