The mainland should again become the Asian Development Bank's biggest recipient of aid this year, receiving up to US$1.3 billion in technical assistance and project loans. The Asian crisis meant Indonesia and South Korea were the bank's biggest beneficiaries in the previous two years, requiring large emergency loans. Beijing is back in the spotlight as it battles to prevent the economy collapsing. Bruce Murray, ADB programme manager for the mainland, said: 'The ADB is only going to lend about US$6 billion in total this year, and we expect China to get $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion.' To leverage its limited resources, the bank will be seeking private sector co-financing and similar projects. The bulk of the money will go towards infrastructure projects, mainly in the country's poorer inner provinces. Transport is seen as a key component, opening up inland areas and allowing traders a wider market for their goods. ADB financing has helped build a 1,500-kilometre highway linking Beijing with Heilongjiang in the north. This year, the bank's board will be asked to approve funding for an expressway running through Yunnan towards the Laos border in an effort to open up trade with the Upper Mekong region. Another road is being proposed along the Taiyuan-Xian corridor. The ADB is already providing aid on a highway from central Chongqing to Guiyang in the south. The road may also be extended northeast to Chengdu. Next year, the bank will also be asked to consider backing a highway in Guangxi, running from Guilin to Vietnam. On the rail front, the ADB has taken part in the building of three railways, including the north-south line recently opened between Beijing and Hong Kong. With work on three other lines under way, Mr Murray said the ADB was likely to consider a fourth project next year, an east-west link between Xian and Hefei crossing the north-south railway. Similarly, the ADB has been a leader in port development. However, it believes this sector is now attracting sufficient private-sector investment. Other areas to be targeted will be energy, the environment and small banks. For instance, this year the ADB is expected to provide $300 million to clean up Suzhou Creek near Shanghai.