Greek Parliament Approves Sweeping Austerity Plan

Greece's parliament approved a $40 billion austerity package on Wednesday, opening the door to a fresh rescue from European lenders.

The embattled country has a nearly $500 billion public debt burden that amounts to 150% of its annual economic output. The European Union and International Monetary Fund provided Greece with a $158 billion bailout package last year, but that proved to be insufficient.

Greece needs roughly $17 billion in the short-run to pay off the next tranche of debt. Without the aid, many analysts say it is possible that the country will default on its obligations, potentially creating a cascading effect that could endanger global financial markets.

The EU and IMF have pushed Greece to take deep austerity measures before approving this round of aid. However, the austerity measures involve increasing taxes and cutting expenses, moves that have sparked large-scale and sometimes violent protests throughout the capital of Athens.

The vote was passed by a tight margin: 155 for and 138 against.  All but one of the 155 ruling PASOK party members voted for the bill, plus one conservative opposition member, according to a report by Reuters. Parliament is expected to vote on Thursday on the specifics of the implementation.