WASHINGTON – Outspoken billionaire investor George Soros on Sunday criticized U.S. and European officials for taking too long to effectively address the financial crisis.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was "very slow" to react because his "market fundamentalist beliefs" made him reluctant to take the necessary steps to respond to the credit crunch, Soros said.
European leaders, meanwhile, on Sunday finally "got religion and realized this is a serious problem they've got to address," he said.
"This is the crisis of my lifetime. I haven't seen anything like it and I won't see anything like it again," Soros said.
Financial regulators "have been consistently behind the curve," he added.
Soros is an outspoken critic of President George W. Bush and has donated heavily to Democratic political campaigns. He made a fortune betting on global currency markets.
Soros spoke on the sidelines of the annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund meeting, which was dominated by discussion of the global meltdown.
Officials have only recently begun to take the right steps, he said, such as agreeing to provide fresh capital to distressed banks, a move announced by European leaders Sunday. European governments also said they would guarantee new debt issued by banks.
Paulson, meanwhile, indicated late Friday the United States would also consider injecting new capital into banks as part of the $700 billion bailout approved by Congress Oct. 3. That was a turnaround from the bailout's initial focus of purchasing bad mortgage-related assets from the banks.
"The policy direction now is much more productive than it was a week ago," Soros said.
Financial markets, which plummeted last week amidst uncertainty about whether the meltdown would lead to a deep global recession, should rebound as a result, Soros said.
On the other hand, he noted, "panic is in full swing."