The step by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung came after government data released last week showed that the country appears to be far behind in meeting its goal of privatizing 289 SOEs this year. In the first quarter, it sold stakes in just 27 SOEs, and investors bought only 44% of the shares offered, the Finance Ministry said.

The prime minister didn’t specify what punishment might be meted out to officials in ministries and provinces, which are often the direct governing bodies of the SOEs.

Part of the reason investors aren’t biting, analysts say, is that they aren’t allowed to buy majority stakes, meaning they wouldn’t be able to gain enough influence at the SOEs to bring about needed improvement in governance and efficiency.

The most anticipated privatizations planned for this year include ‎MobiFone, one of the largest mobile carriers in the country, and some power generating companies. However, most of the companies privatized in the first quarter were small companies.‎

Vietnam has been moving to privatize its inefficient SOEs because they are seen as a drag on economic growth. But the process has been slow, with the number of SOEs at 949 at the end of 2013, down from 1,350 at the end of 2010.

SOEs in Vietnam required more capital than foreign-invested firms, and nearly double the capital required by domestic private firms, to achieve the same levels of output during the 2008-2013 period, according to a report released last week by the National University of Singapore and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Dung urged the ministries and provinces to quickly list company shares on the stock markets after being privatized, according to the statement released on Monday. He also wants companies that were partially privatized earlier to sell more shares to the public to reduce the government’s stakes to its desired levels there, according to the statement.

Dung also ordered the Ministry of Finance to calculate the value of SOEs to help avoid disagreements that have hindered privatization.

By Vu Trong Khanh - The Wall Street Journal - April 13, 2015