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Greece expects economic growth _ at last _ in 2014

Protesters affiliated to the communist party, shout slogans as they march through the city centre, during a protest against austerity and the far right party of Golden Dawn, in Athens on Saturday, Oct. 5 2013. Heavily indebted Greece is in the sixth year of a deep financial crisis that has seen unemployment soar to 27 percent. (AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece expects its economy to grow next year, the first annual improvement after six years of brutal contraction.

Deputy Finance Minister Christos Staikouras says the economy is projected to expand 0.6 percent, compared with a 4 percent contraction this year.

Greece's economy has shrunk by about a quarter since 2008, when it was hurt by the global financial crisis. Then in late 2009, it was hit by revelations that its debt was far higher than expected.

The country has avoided bankruptcy through international rescue loans, in exchange for implementing harsh spending cuts and tax increases.

The conservative-led government has been able to reduce the budget deficit to 2.4 percent of output this year. According to the draft budget presented Monday, the deficit will remain at the same percentage in 2014.