The world's richest heads of state

Gold barsIt's hard to imagine America electing a leader who hadn't first proven himself to be at least somewhat successful outside the political arena.

It is estimated that Barack Obama has a net worth of over $10 million, though that mostly came from sales of books he published after his entrance into politics. George W. Bush is worth about $20 million -- a large fraction of which came from one very profitable investment in the Texas Rangers.
But in some parts of the world, politics and great wealth go hand in hand, and economic power and political power are so highly correlated that the latter almost presupposes the former.

The leaders of some countries rank among the wealthiest people in the world. Throughout the Middle East, for example, billionaire leaders possess fortunes derived from their countries' oil reserves. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei for instance, was born into his fortune.

Other leaders are extraordinarily successful in business before parlaying that money into a career in politics. President Sebastián Piñera of Chile made billions in industry before holding office -- as did Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

24/7 Wall St. identified the wealthiest heads of state by net worth, using Forbes annual rankings on "World's Billionaires" and "The World's Richest Royals." We removed those who merely hold ceremonial, as opposed to executive positions, such as the king of Thailand. We also included their countries' per capita GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund, to better compare levels of national wealth.But in some parts of the world, politics and great wealth go hand in hand, and economic power and political power are so highly correlated that the latter almost presupposes the former.

The leaders of some countries rank among the wealthiest people in the world. Throughout the Middle East, for example, billionaire leaders possess fortunes derived from their countries' oil reserves. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei (pictured) for instance, was born into his fortune.

Other leaders are extraordinarily successful in business before parlaying that money into a career in politics. President Sebastián Piñera of Chile made billions in industry before holding office -- as did Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

24/7 Wall St. identified the wealthiest heads of state by net worth, using Forbes annual rankings on "World's Billionaires" and "The World's Richest Royals." We removed those who merely hold ceremonial, as opposed to executive positions, such as the king of Thailand. We also included their countries' per capita GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund, to better compare levels of national wealth.

24/7 Wall St.'s 9 Richest Heads of State:

Richest heads of state9. President Asif Ali Zardari Country: Pakistan
Net worth: $1.8 billion
National GDP per capita: $2,791

Zardari is Pakistan's second richest man, according to the Pakistan Daily. A large portion of Zardari's fortune comes from sugar mills across Pakistan, as well as other businesses he has stakes in. Zardari became president after the assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto, who served as prime minister of Pakistan during the 1990s. Zardari has been arrested many times on corruption charges.



Richest heads of state8. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
Country: Qatar
Net worth: $2 billion
National GDP per capita: $88,559

Al Thani has been the ruling emir of Qatar since 1995. He replaced his father, Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, who was deposed in a palace coup. Sheikh Hamad has played a major role in developing Qatar's oil and natural gas resources.



World's richest heads of state7. President Sebastián Piñera
Country: Chile
Net worth: $2.4 billion
National GDP per capita: $15,002

Piñera made his fortune before becoming president through ownership of the television channel Chilevisión and LAN Airlines. He also popularized the use of credit cards in Chile. Since becoming Chile's leader in January 2010, Piñera has sold his stakes in various companies, including LAN, to avoid conflicts of interest.



World's richest heads of state6. King Mohammed VI
Country: Morocco
Net worth: $2.5 billion
National GDP per capita: $4,754

Mohammed VI became king in July 1999 after the death of his father. Morocco is the world's primary producer of phosphate, which is used in fertilizer and to obtain phosphorous. The state has a national monopoly on the commodity, which has helped the king amass his fortune. He has made the fight against poverty a major goal of his tenure as king, yet he himself lives an extremely extravagant lifestyle. According to Forbes, it costs approximately $1 million a day to operate the king's 12 palaces.


World's richest heads of state5. Prince Hans-Adam II
Country: Liechtenstein
Net worth: $5 billion
National GDP per capita: N/A

Aside from being the prince of Liechtenstein, Hans-Adam II, along with his siblings and their children, owns LGT Group, the largest family-owned private wealth and asset manager in Europe. He is the wealthiest monarch -- and the second-wealthiest head of state -- in Europe. Although Hans-Adam is still the head of state, many of the day-to-day operations of the country have been passed on to his son, Crown Prince Alois, according to the BBC.



4. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Country: United Arab Emirates
Net worth: $12 billion
National GDP per capita: $48,821

Al Maktoum is the prime minister and vice president of the United Arab Emirates, as well as the emir of Dubai. Sheikh Mohammed helped diversify Dubai's economy from away from the oil industry, which now makes up only about 10% of GDP, according to USA Today. Thanks to the sheikh, Dubai is now a major center for manufacturing and tourism. He also owns 99.67% of Dubai Holding, a government holding company.



3. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Country: United Arab Emirates
Net worth: $15 billion
National GDP per capita: $48,821

Al Nahyan is both the president of the United Arab Emirates and the emir of Abu Dhabi. As with many countries in the Middle East, a large amount of government wealth comes from oil. The sheikh, while still possessing a massive fortune, lost a lot of money due to a 40% decline in oil export earnings in 2009. According to Forbes, his net worth decreased from $23 billion in 2008 to $15 billion in 2010.



2. King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz
Country: Saudi Arabia
Net worth: $18 billion
National GDP per capita: $23,826

Abdullah became the king of Saudi Arabia in August 2005 after the death of his half-brother, King Fahd. Saudi Arabia contains the world's largest crude oil reserves, and the state-owned oil company, Saudi Aramco, produces more oil per day than any other firm in the world, according to mining news source SteelGuru. So when oil does well, the king does well.



1. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah
Country: Brunei
New worth: $20 billion
National GDP per capita: $48,892

The sultan of Brunei is the wealthiest non-ceremonial leader in the world. Most of his money comes from oil and gas reserves. This may eventually prove to be a problem for the sultan -- or his heirs -- as "Brunei's oil reserves are expected to last 25 years, and natural gas reserves 40 years," according to the U.S. State Department. Brunei's leader, who reportedly has thousands of luxury automobiles, lives in Istana Nurul Iman -- the largest palace in the world.
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