Indranee's promotion will make it 3 women in Cabinet

When changes to the Cabinet kick in on May 1, three women will be full ministers, the largest number ever.

Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah, 55, has been promoted to become Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, as part of the Cabinet reshuffle announced yesterday.

She will join Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and incoming Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in the Cabinet.

Yesterday, Ms Indranee told The Straits Times she is "honoured and humbled" by the new appointment.

It sends a signal that "as a government, we recognise women in leadership", she said. "I hope my appointment will be a source of encouragement to women in Singapore."

Ms Indranee will also be Second Minister for Education and Finance. As a transition arrangement, she will also be Second Minister for Law until June 30, before senior lawyer Edwin Tong becomes Senior Minister of State for Law from July 1.

Observers like sociologist Paulin Straughan cheered the bigger presence of women in the Cabinet. "They have all served in politics for a long time, and proven themselves capable of doing the job of minister."

Ms Indranee's promotion is the latest progress for women in the last few years: Ms Fu was made full minister in 2015, and Mrs Teo last year.

On whether the pace of getting women into the Cabinet is too slow, Prof Straughan thinks there are now more opportunities for women to progress to the top.

She said: "Whether they choose to then take up that opportunity should be their personal choice, given that some may want to attend to other responsibilities like family."

Ms Indranee is no stranger to the education sector. She was Senior Minister of State for Education from 2012 to 2015.

She also led the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (Aspire) committee, launched to improve the career and academic prospects of polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education graduates. Its recommendations later culminated in the SkillsFuture movement to encourage lifelong learning and aligning education with economic demand.

Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, president of the Singapore University of Social Sciences, had worked with Ms Indranee as a member of the Aspire committee.

"She is very thoughtful and understands different points of view," he said, adding that he looks forward to seeing bold moves in the education sector under Education Minister Ong Ye Kung's and Ms Indranee's leadership.

"They are not ones who shy away from making difficult decisions and they will move forward on their decisions if they are necessary," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2018, with the headline 'Indranee's promotion will make it 3 women in Cabinet'. Print Edition | Subscribe