Despite a pay freeze in 2016/17, and an economy in recession, president Jacob Zuma remains one of the highest-paid leaders in the world.

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In 2016, Zuma’s salary was approved at R2.87 million for the year, putting its current dollar value at US$214,780. Later in the year, due to poor economic conditions, the president signed off on a salary freeze for politicians, putting a halt to any adjustment for 2017.

However, even without the typical 5% increase to his annual pay, president Zuma remains among the best-paid leaders in the world – with a truncated paycheque higher than many prime ministers in European countries, and his counterparts in the BRIC nations.

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Highest paid leaders

Singaporean prime minister Lee Hsien Loong is widely known to command the highest salary of any politician in the world, and this position has not changed.

In April 2017, Singaporean state media revealed that the latest salary increases in the nation will see the country’s 31 ministers and officials earning S$53 million a year (US$38 million).

The politician has taken several pay cuts over the years, but still earns a reported US$1.6 million annually – far more than any other official leader, despite being down from US$1.7 million in 2016.

Singapore’s president, Toby Tan – whose role is a largely ceremonial one, in the same vein as monarchs in European countries – also earns a significant US$1.1 million salary.

Australia’s PM Malcolm Turnbull, had his salary adjusted upwards to AU$527,852 (US$400,832), at the beginning of July, effectively making him the second-highest paid leader, placing ahead of the president of the United States for the first time.

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US president Donald Trump draws the same salary as his predecessor, Barack Obama, which is set at US$400,000, but has made good on his campaign promises to donate it to other causes.

Trump has reportedly donated his full first-quarter, pre-tax earnings of US$78,333 to the National Park Service.

Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel is paid a salary of EUR220,000 (US$250,535), while UK PM, Theresa May, earns a US$194,000 salary.

The new, younger generation of presidents and leaders joining the global elite – France’s Emmanuel Macron; Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau; and Ireland’s PM Leo Varadkar– also receive comfortable salaries.
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Varadkar will earn US$211,170 as head of the Irish government, while Macron will take home US$203,760, and Trudeau’s salary will increase to US$267,700 in 2017.

Within the BRICS nations, salaries appear far more modest, though the true extent and sources of their wealth – as with our local politicians – is widely questioned.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is said to draw a ‘humble’ salary of US$138,000, while Brazil’s controversial new president, Michel Temer, receives a fraction over US$113,000.

China’s Xi Jinping‘s salary is estimated at $22,000 a year, below India’s Narendra Modi‘s salary at $30,300.

LeaderCountrySalary (US$)Salary (ZAR)
Lee Hsien LoongSingapore$1 600 000R21.4 million
Malcolm TurnbullAustralia$400 832R5.4 million
Donald TrumpUnited States$400 000R5.3 million
Justin TrudeauCanada$267 700R3.6 million
Angela MerkelGermany$250 535R3.3 million
Jacob ZumaSouth Africa$214 780R2.9 million
Leo VaradkarIreland$211 170R2.8 million
Emmanuel MacronFrance$203 760R2.7 million
Shinzo AbeJapan$202 700R2.7 million
Theresa MayUK$194 000R2.6 million
Vladamir PutinRussia$138 000R1.8 million
Michel TemerBrazil$113 000R1.5 million
Narendra ModiIndia$30 300R405 500
Xi JinpingChina$22 000R294 400
(All salaries have been converted to US dollars at respective rates on 10 July 2017)