Samuel Wills

Dr Samuel Wills
Assistant Professor, University of Sydney

Sam Wills is a macro- and financial economist studying how countries can better manage their natural resource wealth. His research addresses policy-relevant questions on fiscal, monetary, exchange-rate and sovereign wealth fund policy using both theory and empirics.

As well as the University of Sydney, Sam is affiliated with the Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies (OxCarre) and the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis at ANU (CAMA). Previously Sam was the principal investigator of an ESRC Future Research Leaders grant at the University of Oxford, where he held positions in the Department of Economics and Pembroke College

Sam has advised the World Bank on natural resource policy in Iraq, Libya and Uganda and has also worked with the IMF, the Bank of England, the International Growth Centre, the Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. In the private sector he has worked with Taylor Fry Actuaries, Westpac Bank and McKinsey and Co.

Sam completed a D.Phil (Ph.D) in Economics (Oxford) in 2014 as a John Monash Scholar, and was awarded the David Walton award for the top candidate in macroeconomics or finance. He also completed an M.Phil in Economics (Oxford) as a Commonwealth Scholar, and a B.Com in Actuarial Studies and Finance (UNSW) as a Co-Op Scholar, graduating with a High Distinction average, the University Medal and the Investec Prize for the top all-round student.

Presentation Title: Surfing a Wave of Economic Development
Presentation Day: Tuesday 14th March
Presentation Time: 11.35 - 11.55am

Does geography affect the location and pace of economic growth? While there is extensive evidence that some natural advantages are important, like rivers, ports and resource endowments, evidence on the role of natural amenities remains mixed. This paper estimates the economic impact of a particular natural amenity, surf breaks, in three natural experiments. The first finds that economic activity, proxied by night-time lights, grew by 0.4 percentage points p.a. more near 4-star breaks than 1-star breaks from 1992-2013, and the effect is concentrated in nearby towns and emerging economies suggesting both path dependence and institutions are important. This is worth up to $2.45 million per break per year. The second finds that discovering (or losing) a high-quality break raises (lowers) growth by 2.2 percentage points p.a.; and the invention of heated wetsuits raised growth near high-quality cold-water breaks by 2.6 percentage points p.a. The third shows that during El Niño years, famed for good surf, an unanticipated increase in average wave height of 1 standard deviation increases growth near 4-star breaks by 5.6 percentage points relative to 1-star breaks.

Thomas McGregor, University of Oxford