What wealth & absolute power can do is to splurge on vanity projects, and how !

A mansion in Paris with 14 bedrooms and 34,000 statues of the Great Dictator himself are some of the quirks of wealthy despots

What wealth & absolute power can do is to splurge on vanity projects, and how !

V Venkateswara Rao

The president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, has just unveiled a towering gold monument for his favourite dog.

The monument has reportedly been installed in a residential area designed for civil servants in the capital, Ashgabat. The statue unveiling ceremony included songs, dance and a real Alabai puppy. The Alabai dog is listed as an asset of national heritage in the country, and Berdymukhamedov has used the shepherd breed to encourage a sense of national pride.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov is widely described as presiding over a personality cult, and human rights campaigners accuse the ruler of exercising totalitarian control over public life. The media in Turkmenistan is ranked as the least free in the world by Reporters Sans Frontieres, after North Korea.

Often described as “an island of dictatorship in the sea of democracy,” Swaziland is almost entirely surrounded by neighbouring South Africa - a country in the hands of the absolute ruler King Mswati. In addition to being a bigamist, the king also suffers from megalomania and loves expensive projects.

In 2014, he opened a brand-new airport in the middle of nowhere even before he was granted an airline license, or someone ready to fly there. The cost of the airport was estimated at about 10 percent of the country’s GDP. Meanwhile, almost all of the county’s residents lived below the poverty line, and many were dying of HIV infection. 63% of Swazis live on less than $1.25 per day. Mswati has been criticized for his lavish lifestyle, while the people of his country starve. In the 2014 national budget, Swaziland parliament allocated USD 61 million for the King’s annual household budget.

Gabonese President, Ali Bongo Ondimba is another president that likes to capitalize off of his country’s income. Ondimba is said to have embezzled approximately 25 percent of his country’s GDP , and although reportedly grossing even more money today, Ondimba is said to have a net worth of over $1 billion. He also owns a lavish townhouse in Paris that cost him $138 million. The townhouse sits on one acre of land in the heart of Paris and contains 14 bedrooms, a swimming pool, tennis courts and seven parking spaces.

Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad has found it easy to keep up a luxurious lifestyle, especially when owning around 60 to 70 percent of Syria’s assets. The al-Assad family has been in power in Syria for more than 40 years. Asma al-Assad, the first lady of Syria, made news for reportedly spending millions on luxury goods while Syrian police were firing tear gas at demonstrators. Asma has been vocal on her admiration for Christian Louboutin heels and Chanel dresses, rather than being concerned for the people in her country. It is estimated by Business Insider that al-Assad holds up to $1.5 billion in assets and some held in Russia and Hong Kong.

North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il (father current ruler Kim Jong-un) reportedly kept a royal wine cellar full with over 10,000 bottles. The narcissistic leader placed 34,000 statues of himself all around North Korea.

Former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein loved his palaces and his palace collection accounted for more than 70 exquisitely designed palaces. Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was said to have amassed an estimated $70 billion over 30 years, with his sons and family controlling and taking cuts on all projects that took place in Egypt.

King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz was the absolute monarch of Saudi Arabia, estimated to be worth about $17 billion before his death in 2015. If one were to take the entire Saudi royal family as a single entity and combine all their staggering wealth and financial holdings together, it’s estimated that the House of Saud would be worth as much as $14 trillion.

Hassanal Bolkiah is the current Sultan of Brunei and among the richest monarchs in the world. As is the case with many dictatorships, his personal wealth and the state are indistinguishable, and the Sultan is believed to have a net worth of $20 billion as a result of oil and gas development in Brunei.

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