The latest increase in the price of oil, combined with dislocations stemming from the Iranian-Iraqi war, is pushing a number of Third World oil-importing countries close to bankruptcy, according to Western analysts.
Already trying to absorb the near tripling of prices in the last two years, these countries can no longer afford even the "moderate" increases of $2 or $3 a barrel decreed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries this week in Bali, Indonesia.
Aid promised from OPEC and international agencies either has not materialized or is so small and slow that the immediate relief has been minimal.
The OPEC nation probably doing the most for poor Third World nations, Iraq, virtually has stopped both its oil shipments and low-interest long-term loans because of its war with Iran.
Preoccupied by internal rifts, OPEC again postponed consideration of a $20 billion fund to help Third World nations deal with the oil crisis. Its special $4 billion facility for the same purpose has remained largely a "paper fund," according to one specialist, as each nation has pursued bilaterial oil diplomacy.
The language being used by economists and analysts of Third World affairs is becoming increasingly cataclysmic with each new OPEC pronouncement of even a small change in prices. What is regarded as a "moderate" hike by the oil producers and even Western nations now amounts to yet another disaster in the turbulent economic life of many Third World nations.
"Every time this happens we focus on the United States, but we have the money. We forget about the developing countries," remarked one State Department official. "It will hit them the worst."
"Some Third World countries are just going to go belly up if this contintues," another analyst said.
Among those already qualifiying for such "dead fish" certification are Turkey, Uganda and Liberia, but other candidates come quickly to the lips of economists as they calculate the impact of the latest 10 percent increase.
More oil-importing Third World nations are spending such a large percentage of their export earnings on oil that there is less left for development. Increasingly, too, what little does remain is going for grain imports just to keep the people alive.
Turkey, the most dramatic example of this spreading Third World crisis, will spend 115 percent of its expected export earnings just on oil imports this year, according to unofficial World Bank calculations. The difference will have to be borrowed.
Uganda is using all income from coffee imports -- its major source of hard currency -- for oil, and Liberia is described by State Department officials as living on "death's door," paying for its imports thanks only to loans arranged every three months from a consortium of American banks.
Brazil, India and Tanzania are facing oil bills that will eat up more than half their export earnings. Those of Bangladesh and Sudan may exceed 70 percent.
The depth of the effect through the fragile economies and political systems of Third World nations is only now beginning to be appreciated fully. sGovernments are tearing up development plans, reordering their priorities to concentrate on mere survival and contemplating Draconian measures that may well provoke their own downfall.
It is even causing the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to reconisder the theory of development, that is, to add energy as a separate factor in calculating the cost of production.
"The high price of energy means that it must now be regarded as of equal importance with other factors of production -- land, labor and capital," World Bank Senior Vice President Ernest Stern told an American Petroleum Institute conference last month.
Stern said that not only are the prospects for any real development by the 92 oil-importing Third World nations dim, but many must drastically curtail expenditures on health, education and welfare.
The effect of doing this -- in the face of rising expectations and demands throughout the Third World for just such social benefits -- will be "strong social and political pressures" on governments, threatening their survival, Stern said.
"It is no surprise that we see political systems in turmoil in so many countries even though the adjustment process has only begun," he concluded.
The figures involved in the latest OPEC price rise do not at first seem overwhelming. The average $3 increase, about 10 percent over previous prices, is only keeping even with the world inflation rate, economists say.
But it will add about $5 billion to the almost $50 billion oil bill of Third World oil-importing countries in 1980 -- more than they paid for all their oil back in 1973 -- and increase by about $3 billion the expected $72 billion deficit in their balance of payments.
What this means to the economies of struggling Third World nations can be seen in the dilemmas facing Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere. Previously getting 60 percent of its oil from Iraq with the help of Iraqi loans, Tanzania has had to scour the Persian Gulf for new sources and buy from Abu Dhabi at $37.55 a barrel with no credit, according to reports from the Tanzanian capital.
The cost of its oil before the latest OPEC hike was expected to rise from $260 million this year to $320 million in 1981, forcing Tanzania to use nearly 60 percent of its stagnating export earnings. Already in difficult straits because of drought, military involvement in Uganda and economic mismanagement, the government is being forced to trim $300 from what is already seen as an austerity budget and reduce imports to almost zero.
It will probably have to introduce gasoline rationing. There is now a Sunday ban on driving, gasoline costs about $4 a gallon and stations are closed from Thursday night to Monday morning.
The most delicate issue, however, is whether Nyerere will, as the IMF has suggested, cut back on the country's extensive social welfare programs. He has strenously resisted such a step and accused the fund of trying to force him to scrap Tanzania's socialist system.
It is just such reforms that the oil crisis may be forcing upon more and more Third World nations regardless of their ideology or economic orientation.