updated 8 Jun 2011, 03:32
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Wed, Jun 08, 2011
The Straits Times
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Lim Hwee Hua promoted on merit, not because of gender
by Kor Kian Beng

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong will consider Mrs Lim Hwee Hua to head a ministry of her own if she continues to perform well and when an opportunity arises.

And she was promoted to become a minister because of merit, not gender, he added.

Mrs Lim, 50, the Senior Minister of State at the Finance and Transport ministries, will become Second Minister in both ministries as well as a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) from tomorrow.

Said Mr Lee: “We can’t take her out from these two ministries now, but I will consider her to head a ministry on her own if she continues to perform well, which I’m sure she will, and when the opportunity arises.”

He added that she is fully engaged at the two ministries and her being placed in the PMO is “a technicality because she is a full minister”.

He pointed to labour chief Lim Swee Say as another example of a full minister placed in the PMO but whose responsibilities are elsewhere.

In Mr Lim’s case, they are at the National Trades Union Congress, where he is the labour movement’s secretary-general.

Mr Lee said that Transport Minister Raymond Lim has told Mrs Lim she will be responsible for maritime and aviation issues at the Transport Ministry.

Asked if Singapore would see more women ministers, he said: “Well, I hope we will have more female ministers. If you look at the Parliament, we’ve had more female MPs. I hope that among them, there will be more potential office holders and in due course more ministers.”

There are now 22 women among the 93 Members of Parliament. They include five Nominated MPs and one Non-Constituency MP, a post given to the best loser in a general election.

Mr Lee noted that there is a gender imbalance among politicians in most countries, “including in countries where nobody can say that there’s a glass ceiling for women”.

“It’s just the way things turn out, particularly in politics, that there are more men than women,” he said.

Mrs Lim Hwee Hua is the first woman to be made a Cabinet minister.

In 1991 Dr Seet Ai Mee was appointed Acting Minister for Community Development, but she lost her Bukit Gombak parliamentary seat in the general election later that year.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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