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FINANCIAL CHRONICLE™ » FUN CHRONICLE™ » Jose Mujica: The world's 'poorest' president

Jose Mujica: The world's 'poorest' president

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Redbulls

Redbulls
Director - Equity Analytics
Director - Equity Analytics
By Vladimir Hernandez
BBC Mundo, Montevideo

Jose Mujica: The world's 'poorest' president _6399410

It's a common grumble that politicians' lifestyles are far removed from those of their electorate. Not so in Uruguay. Meet the president - who lives on a ramshackle farm and gives away most of his pay.

Laundry is strung outside the house. The water comes from a well in a yard, overgrown with weeds. Only two police officers and Manuela, a three-legged dog, keep watch outside.

This is the residence of the president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, whose lifestyle clearly differs sharply from that of most other world leaders.

President Mujica has shunned the luxurious house that the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders and opted to stay at his wife's farmhouse, off a dirt road outside the capital, Montevideo.

The president and his wife work the land themselves, growing flowers.

This austere lifestyle - and the fact that Mujica donates about 90% of his monthly salary, equivalent to $12,000 (£7,500), to charity - has led him to be labelled the poorest president in the world.


"I may appear to be an eccentric old man... But this is a free choice."
"I've lived like this most of my life," he says, sitting on an old chair in his garden, using a cushion favoured by Manuela the dog.

"I can live well with what I have."

His charitable donations - which benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs - mean his salary is roughly in line with the average Uruguayan income of $775 (£485) a month.

Jose Mujica: The world's 'poorest' president _6399411
All the president's wealth - a 1987 VW Beetle

In 2010, his annual personal wealth declaration - mandatory for officials in Uruguay - was $1,800 (£1,100), the value of his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle.

This year, he added half of his wife's assets - land, tractors and a house - reaching $215,000 (£135,000).

That's still only about two-thirds of Vice-President Danilo Astori's declared wealth, and a third of the figure declared by Mujica's predecessor as president, Tabare Vasquez.

Elected in 2009, Mujica spent the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, a leftist armed group inspired by the Cuban revolution.

He was shot six times and spent 14 years in jail. Most of his detention was spent in harsh conditions and isolation, until he was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy.

Those years in jail, Mujica says, helped shape his outlook on life.

"I'm called 'the poorest president', but I don't feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more," he says.

"This is a matter of freedom. If you don't have many possessions then you don't need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself," he says.

"I may appear to be an eccentric old man... But this is a free choice."

The Uruguayan leader made a similar point when he addressed the Rio+20 summit in June this year: "We've been talking all afternoon about sustainable development. To get the masses out of poverty.

"But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: what would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household than Germans? How much oxygen would we have left?

"Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet."

Mujica accuses most world leaders of having a "blind obsession to achieve growth with consumption, as if the contrary would mean the end of the world".

Jose Mujica: The world's 'poorest' president _6400510
Mujica could have followed his predecessors into a grand official residence

But however large the gulf between the vegetarian Mujica and these other leaders, he is no more immune than they are to the ups and downs of political life.

"Many sympathise with President Mujica because of how he lives. But this does not stop him for being criticised for how the government is doing," says Ignacio Zuasnabar, a Uruguayan pollster.

The Uruguayan opposition says the country's recent economic prosperity has not resulted in better public services in health and education, and for the first time since Mujica's election in 2009 his popularity has fallen below 50%.

This year he has also been under fire because of two controversial moves. Uruguay's Congress recently passed a bill which legalised abortions for pregnancies up to 12 weeks. Unlike his predecessor, Mujica did not veto it.

Jose Mujica: The world's 'poorest' president _6399412
Instead, he chose to stay on his wife's farm

He is also supporting a debate on the legalisation of the consumption of cannabis, in a bill that would also give the state the monopoly over its trade.

"Consumption of cannabis is not the most worrying thing, drug-dealing is the real problem," he says.

However, he doesn't have to worry too much about his popularity rating - Uruguayan law means he is not allowed to seek re-election in 2014. Also, at 77, he is likely to retire from politics altogether before long.

When he does, he will be eligible for a state pension - and unlike some other former presidents, he may not find the drop in income too hard to get used to.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20243493

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Redbulls

Post Sat Nov 17, 2012 8:03 pm by Redbulls

Posted above news story fom BBC, just - Food for thought.

Kithsiri

Post Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:21 pm by Kithsiri

Thanks for sharing and no doubt it is a great stuff for anyone of to emulate as far as we can.
I found Thomas Sankara (Former President of Upper-Volta) was also of this calibre.
When he was killed by former colonial masters, he was only having a Motorbike and a broken Air-conditioner in his office.

Slstock

Post Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:41 am by Slstock

Some would view him has the richest president in the world.

Kithsiri

Post Sun Nov 18, 2012 7:10 am by Kithsiri

So True ! Very Happy
@slstock wrote:Some would view him as the richest president in the world.

STOCK SLAYER

Post Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:57 pm by STOCK SLAYER

Hats off to Jose Mujica......
good lesson for our MR....


Jose Mujica: The world's 'poorest' president Clip_i11

avatar

Post Sun Nov 18, 2012 6:59 pm by Whitebull

In my opinion to evaluate a president it is better to look at his fullfilling of duties towards the country.....Of course it is great thing not to steal country's money but at the sametime we need to look into fulfilling of his duties towards the country.

UKboy

Post Mon Nov 19, 2012 3:55 am by UKboy

@Redbulls wrote: Posted above news story fom BBC, just - Food for thought.

ineteresting one Redbull. thanks for sharing. Wink

agree with whitebull
I prefer an active president who capable of taking his country to the next level rather someone who produly says he is the poorest president in the world.

avatar

Post Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:57 am by D.G.Dayaratne

If we have resources we will have "richest" president in the world
Whatever party come in to power

I mean not only under present govt

avatar

Post Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:48 pm by DUWI

Great story.

As what the great Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore once said - " I am the highest paid Prime Minister in the world. But I am not the richest" - many third world leaders can take a leaf out of this fantastic story.

Slstock

Post Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:53 pm by Slstock

@UKboy wrote:
I prefer an active president who capable of taking his country to the next level rather someone who produly says he is the poorest president in the world.


But it is not he who said he is the poorest president right.


He says "I may appear to be an eccentric old man... But this is a free choice."
"I can live well with what I have."


But i agree that whatever he does he should be "capable of taking his country to the next level".
I have not read enough to see what he has done for his country.

But as a person, living simple reduced headaches.

Kumar

Post Tue Nov 20, 2012 6:43 pm by Kumar

@slstock wrote:
@UKboy wrote:
I prefer an active president who capable of taking his country to the next level rather someone who produly says he is the poorest president in the world.


But it is not he who said he is the poorest president right.


He says "I may appear to be an eccentric old man... But this is a free choice."
"I can live well with what I have."


But i agree that whatever he does he should be "capable of taking his country to the next level".
I have not read enough to see what he has done for his country.

But as a person, living simple reduced headaches.

Agreed.
Thanks for sharing.

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