It’s tough to lead a country, but there are some compensations. From the taxpayer-funded mansions to the top-notch security details, world leaders get benefits for all the long hours and the pressure—some of which go beyond lavish digs and sizable paychecks.
But not all presidential perks are created equal, and some seemingly excessive ones can cost more in political blowback than they’re worth. French President Emmanuel Macron may have learned this last week after it was revealed he spent a total of 26,000 euros ($30,000) on makeup just three months into his term. Macron’s aides dismissed the expenditure as being due to a “moment of urgency” (René Dosière, a former socialist deputy, told French broadcaster France Info the amount was justified because the president of the Republic is “very regularly photographed”), adding that they would look for cheaper alternatives. Still, the revelation comes at an already awkward time for the young leader, whose approval ratings have taken a near-historic nosedive as he attempts to pass controversial reforms that include reining in public spending and overhauling the country’s labor code.
Though Jupiter, as the French president has been called, is the latest politician to be criticized for aesthetic excess, he certainly isn’t the first. Here’s a world tour of countries whose leaders have taken executive privilege to a whole new level.
France. In 2016, it was revealed that former French President François Hollande paid his personal hairdresser a monthly salary of $10,000. The high-priced haircut stood in stark contrast with the Socialist leader’s “Monsieur Normal” persona, which he earned while campaigning on a platform of frugality and spending cuts. Hollande defended himself against Coiffeurgate, as the scandal was known, by reminding his critics that he reduced government spending by 9 million euros, including reducing the Élysée Palace’s staff by 10 percent and cutting his own salary by 30 percent. “You can reproach me on anything you like,” he told reporters during his annual Bastille Day interview, “but not on that.”
Israel. Before Benjamin Netanyahu faced allegations of corruption in a looming graft investigation, the Israeli prime minister was accused of abusing state coffers to fuel his ice cream habits. In 2013, Netanyahu faced public outcry after it was revealed his office spent $2,700 annually at Jerusalem ice-cream parlor Glida Metudela to keep the prime minister’s residence stocked with his favorite flavors—pistachio and vanilla. But that’s not the only taxpayer-funded expenditure that came under public scrutiny. Bibi, has Netanyahu is commonly known, was also criticized for spending $127,000 to install a bed in a plane for his five-hour flight to London to attend the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Ireland. When it was disclosed in 2006 how much Irish leader Bertie Ahern spent on makeup over a four-year period, opponents dubbed him “L’Oreal Taoiseach,” but not because they thought he was worth it. The Taoiseach, or prime minister, was criticized by Irish lawmakers for spending more than 85,000 euros ($101,000) on makeup in four years. But Ahern said his behavior was no different than that of his predecessors. “When I am due to speak in Dáil Éireann [the lower house of parliament] or I am about to be interviewed for television, I make the normal preparations that are standard for all those who participate in television programs, just as successive taoisigh have done since the introduction of the televising of Dáil proceedings in 1990.”
Libya. When Muammar Qaddafi visited other countries, he didn’t travel light. The late Libyan strongman was known for toting a large Bedouin tent with him on all his foreign visits—from the Kremlin garden, where he pitched it during his November 2008 visit to Moscow, to the grounds of the 17th century Villa Doria Pamphili during his visit to Rome in June 2009. The tent even made an appearance on President Donald Trump’s Bedford, New York estate in 2009—an arrangement Trump later revealed made him “a lot of money.” Though it’s unclear exactly how much it cost Qaddafi to transport his tent around the world, it probably didn’t pose much of a financial strain on the Libyan leader—at the time of his death in October 2011, his net worth stood at approximately $200 billion.
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