Belarus lags behind its neighbors in upgrading telecommunications infrastructure, although modernization of the network is steadily progressing with roughly two-thirds of switching equipment to digital. State-owned Beltelcom is the sole provider of fixed-line local and long distance service. Rural areas continue to be underserved; whereas GSM mobile-cellular networks are experiencing rapid growth.
After the demise of the USSR, an initial burst of capitalist reform ran from 1991-94, including privatization of smaller state enterprises and some service sector businesses, creation of institutions of private property, and development of entrepreneurship. In recent years, economic development has greatly slowed. About 80% of all industry remains in state hands, and foreign investment has been hindered by a climate hostile to business. A few banks, which had been privatized after independence, were renationalized. Economic output, which had declined for several years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, revived in the mid-2000s thanks to the boom in oil prices, because Belarus exported refined oil products at market prices produced from Russian crude oil purchased at a high discount price. In 2015, Belarus continued to import cheap Russian crude oil, but the plunge in global oil prices heavily reduced revenues. Little new foreign investment has occurred lately. In 2011, a financial crisis began, eventually leading to a near three-fold devaluation of the Belarusian ruble. Receiving huge loans from Russian banks and the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) Bail-out Fund helped stabilize the economic situation. Despite foreign assistance, the Belarusian economy has continued to struggle under the weight of high external debt, scarce economic growth and reduced hard currency reserves.