Amid growing political tensions at home – and increasing exasperation in Europe – the Greek government insisted today that it was finally exiting years of recession as it presented parliament with its 2014 budget.Ahead of a highly anticipated meeting between the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, and the EU’s most powerful leader, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, Athens’ ruling alliance announced that it expected the country’s defunct economy to grow by 0.6% next year“The sacrifices of the Greek people are paying off,” said the deputy finance minister, Christos Staikouras, after finance minister Yannis Stournaras had submitted the bill, adding that the debt-stricken nation would – for the first time in more than a decade – post a primary surplus in 2013.In further good news, Staikouras revealed that the budget balance – exclusive of interest payments – was expected to exceed €810m, a long-cherished target that would make the country eligible for much needed debt relief. At almost €320bn, Greece’s gargantuan debt load is by far the highest in the western world.Presentation of the 250-page budget came as Athens concluded strained negotiations with the EU, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF), the international bodies that have kept its economy afloat with bailouts worth €240bn since May 2010.After more than two months of on-off talks, the lenders – known collectively as the “troika” – wrapped up a quarterly review of Greece’s economic programme saying that while progress had been made, “a few issues remained outstanding”.Elsewhere, the criticism was more blunt. “Many finance ministers of the Eurozone are starting to lose patience [with Greece],” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch Eurogroup president, echoing the growing disgruntlement that has returned to haunt the country’s ties with its creditors.In sharp contrast to other rescued nations on the periphery of Europe, “Greece still has plenty of work to do”, he told the Greek daily Ta Nea, referring to mass layoffs in the public sector, privatisations and other structural reforms Athens has so far put off adopting.Much of the rancour has focused on the size of a fiscal gap which by 2014 the troika estimates could be as much as €2.9bn. The budget black hole, which opens the prospect of yet more austerity being imposed on a population that has already seen its disposable income drop by 40% since the eruption of the crisis, has placed Samaras’s two-party coalition under increasing pressure.With a four-seat majority in the 300-seat house, MPs have signalled they will vote down extra measures if called upon to pass them. In addition to slashing 25,000 civil servant jobs by 2015, foreign lenders are demanding that the government dismantle the country’s loss-making defence industry, close more than 100 public sector organisations and enact a new round of across-the-board pay and pension cuts.This week, in one of the most dramatic signs of the toll the debt drama has had, the National School of Public Health said the life expectancy of Greeks had dropped from 81 to 78 years since the crisis began. Unemployment is over 27% and poverty levels have also shot up.In a climate that has become increasingly volatile, the prospect of further belt-tightening has not only sent tensions soaring within the government – which narrowly survived a no-confidence motion on 10 November – but has been met with bitter hostility from the anti-austerity political opposition, led by the radical left Syriza party, currently frontrunner in polls.Yesterday the party’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, joined cleaners protesting against dismissals outside the finance ministry where he vowed that “when we are in government, together we will clean the troika away”.With the rhetoric at such heights, the ruling coalition is refusing outright to implement further cuts.Stournaras, who has described fresh measures as “dangerous and unnecessary”, is adamant the shortfall can be covered by improved tax collection and better management of the social security system.In a bid to defuse the stand-off, Samaras is expected to appeal to Merkel to intervene when he holds talks with the German chancellor in Berlin on Friday. The prime minister will tell Europe’s most powerful leader that Greece’s political stability will be put at risk if it is made to adopt more austerity, aides said. On the eve of the talks Merkel sounded upbeat, telling a business conference that changes Greece had implemented were “absolutely remarkable”.But her spokesman warned against over expectation, saying Samaras’s visit to Berlin was more about informing the leader than negotiating with her.