Economic growth in South East Asia accelerated in the past ten years. But a period of adjustment lies ahead, as it does for most of the Third World countries. Escalation of oil prices has slowed expansion of world oil demand and encouraged major consuming countries to switch to alternate fuels and to seek diversification of supplies in the interest of energy independence. Petroleum sales In Japan, the major outlet for oil exports from South East Asia, have stagnated, but exports to the United States offer a substantial alternate market as future domestic supply in that country falls off. By the year 2000, petroleum imports into the United States may total over 10 million barrels daily, double the level of 1982, if U.S. oil production declines as forecast. Greater penetration of this market by South East Asian producers may require a reorientation of marketing strategies.
Since the early 1950's, there has been a marked acceleration in the economic expansion of the Third World. In South East Asia —a microcosm of that world — economic growth has been even more rapid than in most other developing areas in the past ten years (Figure 1).
Economic growth, however, has brought its problems and paradoxes. Side by side with space age communication satellites and high-rise office buildings, there still exist ricksha transportation and kampong-type infrastructure. More importantly, the pace of economic growth, as in other developing areas, has been uneven from country to country. The Third World is now a world a haves and have-nots, a development that has loosened, if not strained, the communality of its interests.
In the last ten years, economic growth in the industrial world stagnated under the impact of two oil price explosions. Nevertheless, the economies of the developing area, including the oil importers, continued to expand, and their energy consumption rose significantly (Table 1). Many oil-importing developing countries were insulated to a large extent from the effects of higher energy costs by financial assistance from the West. By the end of 1982, the debt burden of the non-OPEC developing nations had reached a staggering $600 billion, nearly four times the level of their 1974 debt, and when the OPEC countries ore also included, the total debt was about $700 billion. With the onset of worldwide recession in 1980 and a decline in international trade, the means to repay this debt deteriorated rapidly. The result was de facto, if not de jure, bankruptcy for many of these countries.
A period of adjustment and slower growth lies ahead or the developing world. But he options to ease the transition to higher energy costs varies from country to country.