The Asian Development Bank has announced a $1.8 billion loan program for Bangladesh, which includes improving transportation and helping the government in its goal of cutting poverty in half. The funding is to stretch over three years.

The ADB program is a joint strategy worked out with Britain, Japan, and the World Bank, who already contribute most of the development assistance that Bangladesh receives.

The program supports reforms to improve efficiency in such areas as transportation and energy. Hua Du, the ADB country director in Bangladesh, says improved transportation infrastructure is vital to the country's development.

" We wanted to support the Dhaka-Chittagong highway and the railway, the Padma Bridge, and the energy sector," said Hua Du. "By helping with this infrastructure we are helping the government to develop some strategic growth centers where this infrastructure actually can help to facilitate more private sector investment."

The ADB is also active in health care, and Ms. Hua says such programs are already producing results.

"We work together with the government through building the partnerships with the private sector, the NGOs, to deliver the urban primary health care services to the poor," she said. "This is really quite successful, reaching, really, the grass-root level."

Ms. Hua says ADB-supported programs target mothers and children in slum areas, and in cities where the programs are active, the infant mortality rate is half that of cities without such a project.

The ADB also supports fighting corruption through the Bangladesh government's newly established independent Anti-Corruption Commission. This program provides support to whistle-blowers who report corruption, and promotes simpler and more transparent procedures that make corruption difficult.

Ms. Hua says the Dhaka government reports that customs revenues have increased in the last few months thanks in part to the presence of anti-corruption officers. The customs service is a classic target for corruption, where officials can be bribed to lower duties, siphoning off government revenue.

According to the ADB, almost half of Bangladesh's population of more than 140 million remains poor. In 2004 the per capita gross domestic product was only $418. The government hopes to cut the number of poor by half by 2015.