Against a backdrop of anti-establishment clashes, the Greek parliament approves the 2015 budget. But a dispute with international lenders is delaying the country's last tranche of aid. Ciara Lee asks if Greece really can exit its unpopular bailout programme early.
Thousands rally outside the Greek parliament, protesting further cuts in wages and pensions outlined in the country's 2015 budget. After four years of reforms that have increased poverty and unemployment, many Greeks have had enough. The government's promising tax cuts in this budget and higher economic growth. But the finance minister says austerity isn't over yet. (SOUNDBITE)(Greek) GREEK FINANCE MINISTER GIKAS HARDOUVELIS SAYING: "The crucial issue from now on, the key to growth and the lowering of unemployment, is to continue the reform programme even after the end of the bailout." But the end of the bailout is also being called into question. A row with the EU and IMF over a disputed budget shortfall next year has held up the country's final inspection. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has staked his political survival on an early exit. Euro zone ministers meeting in Brussels are considering extending the bailout possibly by as much as six months. CIBC's Jeremy Stretch says it's a balancing act. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF FX STRATEGY AT CIBC, JEREMY STRETCH, SAYING: "They would like to see obviously a reductions in the level of austerity. They'd like to see additional improved terms in terms of their underlying financing. I think it is going to be difficult for the Germans to bend their position from previously, so I think it is going to be a very tough ask to see any softening of the terms as far as Greece is concerned." Greece's lenders are demanding 1.7 billion euros in additional measures to hit budget targets next year. But Athens has rejected the demands. It hopes any extra time will only be a matter of weeks - as elections are looming in spring.