MARKET vendor Ana Koro has a reason to smile this holiday season.
Her husband Niko is 70 years old and eligible for the pension scheme for senior citizens announced by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama in the 2013 National Budget on Thursday.
Mr Koro is one of the 9000 Fijians who will benefit from the $3.2million funding by government from January next year.
A first for the country, Commodore Bainimarama said 9000 Fijians who did not have any income, pension or had never been part of a welfare or superannuation scheme would benefit from this assistance.
They are entitled even if they live with family who support them.
"This will help our family very much because I am the only one providing for my family at the moment," said Mrs Koro.
The Wainibuka, Tailevu villager said selling vegetables and cassava at the Lautoka market was not enough to provide for her family.
"I look after our three grandchildren who are all attending school. Their father passed away and their mother recently re-married, so I'm the only breadwinner. I have to sell at the market to pay for their education," she said.
According to Mrs Koro, her husband of more than 20 years suffers from asthma which puts further strain on their finances.
"He is constantly in hospital and needs medication. I pay for all the medical bills. It's hard for us because although he wants to help me, he can't because of his sickness."
Like Mr Koro, about 80 per cent of the 120 members of the Senior Citizens Ba Community Centre are also eligible for the assistance.
Senior Citizens Ba Community Centre coordinator Dorothy Bali said the new scheme was a welcome relief for the members.
"Most of them are living with relatives and with their children and are not receiving any kind of assistance. With this new pension scheme many of them will be able to have and save money," said Ms Bali.