Although many imagine Belarus as a mini-Soviet Union, Belarusian cities, and particularly Minsk, are very similar to other European capitals. Western restaurants and hotel and apparel chains are not as abundant as in the neighboring countries, but still present. A number of foreign companies, including a Coca-Cola plant, have operated in the country since the early 1990s. The Austrian Reffeisen Group controls one of the largest private banks in Belarus. Investors from Russia are particularly active in Belarus.

However, because of the unstable investment climate and unfavourable political environment, major foreign investors stay away from Belarus. Moreover, the Belarusian authorities try to preserve their control over inefficient state enterprises which employ the majority of the population. Privatization by foreign investors would almost inevitably lead to lay-offs and weakening of the government’s ability to intervene with management. Hence, it is seen as undesirable by the authorities, which try to delay privatization for as long as they can.