WARREN Buffett, the billionaire US investor, has described America's battle with recession as an "economic Pearl Harbour".Mr Buffett said the meltdown, which has seen US unemployment hit a 25-year high, was an "important war which could be won".
Japanese planes attacked the US Naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, on December 7,1941 in a surprise strike which drew the country into World War II.
The US put aside "partisan stuff" then and should do so again, Mr Buffett said. "We knew if we stuck together and followed leadership we would prevail," he added.
The comments from the Berkshire Hathaway chairman formed part of a wide ranging interview on CNBC. In the interview he also recommended the toxic assets held by banks as a good pick and urged consumers not to condemn executives who use corporate jets.
Mr Buffett said the degree of the global economic turmoil had come as a surprise, even to him, representing his own "worst-case scenario".
The financial sector, he forecast, would not return to health for five years.
He said: "It has fallen off a cliff. Not only has the economy slowed down a lot but people have really changed their habits like I haven't seen."
To ensure a pick-up, Mr Buffett said, the Government must deliver a less "muddled" message than it had done to reassure the country's "scared and confused" consumers.
The so-called "toxic assets" of the banks, he said, were "probably ... the best prospects for returns if the current value is based on mark-to-market".
European regulators recently backed calls to reform the mark-to-market accounting rules that many banks blame for forcing them to declare larger write-downs than necessary, saying they should instead be allowed to value certain assets on the basis that they will be held to maturity, rather than being forced to estimate their present value.
In a reference to "fat-cat" executives, he said that companies should not be condemned for using private-jets. His company, he said, had made deals that it otherwise would not have secured because he had access to a jet.
Mr Buffett is a strong supporter of Barack Obama, whom he called the "right President".
However, he said, the dire financial situation could be eased if the Government better communicated its policies for dealing with the meltdown.
The billionaire's comments followed the release, last week, of his 2008 annual letter to shareholders in which he described the worst of his 44 years at the group's helm.
The Omaha-based group reported a 62 per cent drop in its 2008 profit to $US4.99 billion ($7.9 billion) from $US13.21 billion a year ago.
Profits in the fourth quarter were down 96 per cent to $US117 million, from $US2.95 billion a year ago.
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