The president of Egypt announced yesterday that he is donating half of his personal wealth and half of his $6,000 monthly salary to help his country overcome the current economic crisis. He also encouraged other rich Egyptians to do the same, opening a bank account for them to contribute.
Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s family used to work at Khan el-Khalili, a Cairo bazaar that is a tourist attraction. The family sold what the Culture Ministry in 1970 called the best arabesque furnishing in the country. The family was considered one of the wealthiest in the area and owns three of the best plots in the bazaar, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported.
During his presidential campaign, Sissi would tell reporters that his intention is for Egyptians to stop their protests and to help recover political and financial stability. Street protests have been an everyday thing in Egypt for the past few years, with citizens revolting against public policies and corrupt practices.
France’s François Hollande: 'L’austérité c'est moi'
When he took office in May 2012, one of the first things French Prime Minister François Hollande announced was his decision to cut 30 percent of his and his 34 ministers' salaries in an attempt to slash excessive government spending.
After the decision, Hollande began making less than $19,100 a month, the Reuters news agency says. Ministers who used to make $19,294 a month started receiving $13,505.
The socialist prime minister, who has since adopted several additional austerity measures, also sought to tax salaries above 1 million euros at 75 percent, which was approved by the court in December.
Uruguay’s José 'Pepe' Mujica: 'Others live with less money'
Local media in Uruguay refer to José “Pepe” Mujica as the poorest president in the world. He makes $12,500 a month, but he donates 90 percent of it to nongovernmental organizations that finance housing projects and social enterprises.
His modest lifestyle is part of his practice-what-you-preach philosophy: “I earn more than I need,” he told reporters from Al Jazeera. Mujica lives in a countryside house that his wife owns, and he drives a 1987 Volkswagen, according to a sworn declaration he submitted to the country’s Transparency and Ethics Department. His most recent earning declaration to the committee showed that his income increased 73.5 percent over the past two years.
After the legalizations of gay marriage and marijuana, Uruguay has come under the spotlight on the international stage. Last year, the Economist named Uruguay the "country of the year." "Better yet, the man at the top, President José Mujica, is admirably self-effacing," it wrote.
Other former presidents who gave their money to charity
Nobel Peace Prize-winning Óscar Arias of Costa Rica donated his $102,000 annual salary to the poor, the Associated Press reported. He was making $8,500 a month, and he decided to transfer his wage to organizations helping the elderly, children, the disabled and others in need.
Perhaps the two most familiar examples for Americans are Presidents John F. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover. According to an article by PBS, Kennedy never carried money with him, and his friends would pay for the drinks, sending the check to his wealthy father, Joseph, a self-made multimillionaire. His son John — one of the wealthiest presidents in the Unites States — donated his salary of $100,000 a year to charity.
Hoover did the same, not accepting a salary for being president. Even before taking office, he was dedicated to charity work, having founded the Commission for Relief in Belgium during World War I.
On a similar note, President Obama returned 5 percent of his $400,000 annual salary to the Treasury in a show of support for furloughed federal workers affected by the government spending cuts in March 2013.
Other leaders didn't cut their salary but their successors’. That’s the case of former British prime minister Gordon Brown, who before leaving office reduced the pay of David Cameron from $329,468 (194,000 pounds) to $254,743 (150,000 pounds), the Telegraph reported.
Then there are those who gave themselves a raise
At the same time that Hollande was announcing his 30 percent cut, German Chancellor Angela Merkel — one of the biggest advocates of austerity — voted for a raise for herself and her ministers. Before the increase, she made $21,761 (16,000 euros) a month.
According to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, it was the first time the cabinet salaries were increased in 12 years, and it meant a 5.7 percent hike by August 2013.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is considered one of the world’s richest men, with a fortune estimated at $40 billion to $70 billion, according to Bloomberg View, gave himself a salary raise that doubled his current pay, the Moscow Times said. His current salary is about $7,500 (270,000 rubles) a month.