Federal Reserve chairman 'person of the year'

US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has been unveiled as Time magazine’s person of the year for 2009.

The central banking chief prevailed over runners up including US commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, The Chinese Worker, sprinter Usain Bolt and and House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Time managing editor Richard Stengel noted that without Mr Benrnanke the recession would have been far worse, crediting the economist for pulling America back from the brink of depression.

He follows in the footsteps of Bono, President George W Bush and Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, all of whom have taken the title in recent years.

In 2008 the accolade went to then-president-elect Barak Obama.

But this year, it was deemed that the fed chairman deserved the honour, given his achievements in bringing about nascent economic recovery.

Mr Stengal explained: “The recession was the story of the year. Without Bernanke it would have been a lot worse.

“We’ve rarely had such a perfect revision of the cliche that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Bernanke didn’t just learn from history; he wrote it himself and was damned if he was going to repeat it.”

In an interview accompanying the end of year edition, Mr Bernanke talks of how near the US economy came to collapse.

He said: “We came very, very close to depression. The markets were in anaphylactic shock.

“I’m not happy with where we are, but it is a lot better than where we could be.”

The Fed chief added: “Of course there were things we could have done better, but this was the perfect storm.”

Among those apparently approving of the decision to name Mr Bernanke Person of the Year was former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

He told Time: “I shudder to think what the world would be like if Ben hadn’t been running the Fed. It’s just hard to explain that yes, we’re in deep doo-doo, but we would have been in much deeper doo-doo.”

In his interview with the magazine Mr Bernanke also waded into the debate over executive pay and bonuses.

He said: “I think that bankers ought to recognise that the government and the taxpayer saved the financial system from utter collapse last year.

“And in recognising that, I would think that bankers ought to look in the mirror and decide that perhaps there should be some more restraint in how much they pay themselves, given what the government and the taxpayer did to protect the system.”

The 56-year-old economist took over from Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve in 2006. Earlier this year he was nominated to serve a second term by President Barack Obama.

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