The President of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, is the poorest President in the world according to numerous reports. It is not hard to believe, considering that he donates 90% of his $12 500 monthly salary to charity and has an old Volkswagen car as his only other possession.
He does not live in the Presidential palace, a property he has offered the homeless if they do not find somewhere to stay during winter.
Instead, Mujica lives on a modest farm on the outskirts of Montevideo where he and his wife farm flowers. The 77 year old former guerrilla leader does not even own the farm, it is owned by his wife.
Mujica is a product of his society, in Uruguay personal freedom is jealously defended and the government has little to do with the daily life of the ordinary person. Recently the government drew up plans to legalise the production and selling of Marijuana, a move they said would combat crime related to drugs and also raise millions of dollars. Uruguay. Uruguay is also one of the few countries in the region to legalise abortion.
But even by Uruguayan standards, Mujica is extreme: He never wears a tie and does not have a bank account.
The former guerrilla leader, who spent 14 years in jail says he discovered his current lifestyle during his incarceration. He says a person learns more from pain than from lavish living, adding that during his prison days he would be grateful for a mattress.
President Mujica contrasts sharply with other world leaders who are known for their extreme wealth and opulence, leaders who live in palaces and have long motorcades whilst their citizens struggle to afford decent meals.
Like our great African revolutionary,Thomas Sankara, President Mujica realises that frugality is not poverty and has discovered the wisdom of Seneca’s words : “It is not the one with few possessions who is poor. The truly poor is the one who keeps wanting more.”
“They say I’m the world’s poorest president. Let me tell you that I’m not poor! Poor are those who need too much”
– Uruguayan President Jose Mujica
Indeed, without the worry of explaining huge amounts of wealth, without the paranoia and fear of assassination, without hundreds of guards and security personnel in every aspect of his daily life and with a content wife President Mujica is certainly the happiest President in the world.
From the way he lives, I have changed the way I think about leaders- I never thought they could be responsible or intelligent.
The world’s poorest president is an example to all leaders, and he just might be the wealthiest of them all.