Asia-Pacific News

Asia Pacific's Top Paid Politicians

Darren Connell, Ansuya Harjani |CNBC Asia Pacific

Highest-Paid Asian Leaders

Photo: Getty Images

Multi-billion dollar corruption in India and a whopping 36 percent cut in the salary for Singapore's prime minister have once again raised the question: How much should politicians be paid?

We've tallied up a list of Asia Pacific's highest paid politicians based on figures from a number of publicly available sources, including The Economist.

Some of Asia's fastest growing and largest economies, such as India and China, have the lowest salaries for their leaders.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for example takes in just $36,200 per year, according to AFP.

Click ahead to look at the top-earning politicians in Asia.

By Darren Connell & Ansuya Harjani
Updated 5 January 2011

8. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, president of Indonesia

His Excellency Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia, inspects a guard of honour as he arrives at Defence Establishment Fairbairn to begin a 3 day State visit to Australia on March 9, 2010 in Canberra, Australia. The visit by Yudhoyono will include discussions with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd regarding ways to bolster cooperation in matters of security, economy, development and environmental challenges. Yudhoyono will also address Parliament during his visi
Photo: Getty Images

Annual Salary: $124,000

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the leader behind Indonesia’s newfound status as Asia’s “economic golden child,” pulls in $124,000 a year.

This sum amounts to over 25 times the country’s GDP per capita, according to The Economist. The leader is working on narrowing the wealth gap in the country by raising the salary of civil servants by 10 percent.

The former army general is credited with initiating a crackdown on corruption.

7. Lee Myung-bak, president of South Korea

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak makes a statement to the nation on November 29, 2010 in Seoul, South Korea. South Korean and American military forces began war games exercises Sunday, as tensions between the two Koreas remain high following an artillery exchange on the disputed island of Yeonpyeong on November 24.
Photo: Getty Images

Annual Salary: $162,000

Keeping tensions under control on the Korea peninsula is no easy task. 

Lee Myung-bak’s annual salary is set to rise to $162,000 this year, according to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, from $156,000 in 2011, putting him in seventh place among Asia’s top paid politicians.

However, Lee clearly isn’t in the job for the money. Shortly after he was elected president, the former CEO of Hyundai Construction & Engineering pledged to donate his full salary to the underprivileged during his five-year term.

He was said to be the richest presidential candidate in South Korea's last election, with personal wealth exceeding 35.3 billion won or $31 million.

6. Ma Ying-jeou, president of Taiwan

Taiwan's presidential candidate of the opposition Nationalist Party Ma Ying-jeou smiles during a news conference on March 21, 2008 in Taipei, Taiwan, on day before the presidential elections, Ma urged his supporters to stay cool in front of his opponent's dirty tricks.
Photo: Getty Images

Annual Salary: $184,000

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou rakes in a salary of $184,000 per year.

The Hong Kong-born, U.S.-educated lawyer has played an instrumental role in improving relations with China.

Ma has raised the country's permit quota for Chinese tourists, eased restrictions on Taiwanese investment in China and approved measures to open Taiwan's equity markets to mainland investors.

5. John Key, prime minister of New Zealand

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key poses in his office on the 9th floor of the Beehive on September 19, 2009 in Wellington, New Zealand. John Key nears his first year as the leader of the National led Government after being elected into office in November 2008 by a substantial margin over Labour.
Photo: Getty Images

Annual Salary: $310,000

Fifth on the list is the Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand.

He takes home an annual salary of around $310,000, according to The Wall Street Journal. Impressive for some, but probably not for Key.

Prior to politics, the Kiwi PM amassed a personal fortune of around $40 million, working as a foreign exchange trader with Merrill Lynch, where he earned as much as $2.25 million per year.

He is now New Zealand’s wealthiest member of Parliament and one of the region’s wealthiest leaders.

4. Yoshihiko Noda, prime minister of Japan

Annual Salary: $316,000

Japan's Yoshihiko Noda makes an annual salary of $316,000, according to The Asahi Shimbun newspaper. If you add in the regional allowance of 18 percent, he makes around $384,000 per year.

The rising strength of the Japanese yen has helped boost his earnings in dollar terms.

To put the number into perspective though, it’s a mere fraction of the $10.7 million earned by the CEO of Nissan in 2010.

Still, with six Japanese prime ministers in five years, Noda may not be expecting to be on that salary for long.

3. Julia Gillard, prime minister of Australia

Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks to the media at a press conference at Parliament House on August 23, 2010 in Canberra, Australia. Australia faces it's first hung parliament since World War 2.
Photo: Getty Images

Annual Salary: $495,000

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard just got a significant 31 percent pay hike, taking her salary to $495,000 per year.

The prime minister, however, may have reason to cry poor. Shadow ministers — senior members of the opposition who are in line to get ministries in the event of a change in government — are getting 64 percent raises, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

But with retirement perks including a fully staffed office, unlimited free first-class travel and a permanent driver for the rest of her life, the Gillard might not complain just now. 

2. Donald Tsang, chief executive, Hong Kong

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Donald Tsang waves to the press upon arrival for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Retreat II on November 23, 2008 in Lima. Asia-Pacific leaders on Sunday were to wrap up a summit in which they vowed a united front against the world finance crisis but with bold initiatives looking unlikely to emerge before the meeting adjourned.
Photo: Alfredo Estrella|AFP|Getty Images

Annual Salary: $550,000

The salary of the chief executive of Hong Kong would probably be causing a few eyes to roll in Beijing.

Donald Tsang earns around $550,000 a year, according to Reuters. That’s roughly 30 times the size of the $18,000 salary earned by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

But the perks of the job haven’t come easily for Tsang. He’s been working in Hong Kong’s public sector since 1967. Some might say no amount of money would be enough to compensate for that.

1. Lee Hsien Loong, prime minister, Singapore

Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong shares a laugh with students at the University of New South Wales on June 15, 2006 in Sydney, Australia. Lee Hsien Loong is on a five-day visit to Australia, his first offical visit since becoming Prime Minister in August 2004.
Photo: Getty Images

Annual Salary: $1.65 Million

The prime minister of Singapore just took a salary cut of a whopping 36 percent, but he still makes a basic salary of $1.65 million (S$2.2 million).

That makes him far and away the highest paid politician anywhere in the world.

His salary is still four times the salary of President Barack Obama, who makes $400,000 a year.

But it’s not just the prime minister in Singapore earning big bucks. Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who just had his salary cut by 51 percent, will make $1.2 million a year, and new ministers will get salaries of $840,000 after the pay cut.