Oliver Harman

Oliver Harman is a Cities Economist for the International Growth Centre’s (IGC) Cities that Work initiative based at Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford and Associate Staff at London School of Economics. He is also a Clarendon Scholar studying the financing of Sustainable Urban Development in low income and fast growing cities. In these roles he attempts to help bridge the gap between research and policy translating economic literature into clear urban policy guidance for emerging country city governments.

Oliver engages with local government Ministries and Mayoral teams primarily across sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Latin America & Caribbean and Europe. Examples include local government reform in Guyana, urban resilience and waste management in Ghana, municipal finance in Malawi, Senegal, Somaliland and sustainable urbanisation in Bangladesh. His three thematic interests include financing sustainable urban development, global value chains for regional upgrading and climate change in cities.

A selection of his IGC work is found below with complete overview here.

Content by Oliver Harman
  • Publication - Growth Brief

    Sustainable urbanisation in developing countries: Cities as places to innovate, trade, and work

    As the transition to a net zero global economy takes hold, there will be new opportunities for growth across a wide range of urban industries and services. City governments in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia need to proactively plan how they will leverage this to deliver on local productivity and job creation objectives. The climate crisis urgently calls for a new...

    20 Nov 2022 | Victoria Delbridge, Oliver Harman, Juliana Oliveira-Cunha, Tony Venables

  • Blog post

    Multiple pathways to upgrading in global value chains in Asia

    Upgrading is the acquisition of technological capabilities and market linkages that allows firms to enhance their supply chain competitiveness and move to higher-value activities. This upgrading occurs in many different forms representing opportunities for decision-makers in Asia. Countries upgrade GVCs in different forms. In Asia, Vietnam represents one trajectory,...

    3 Nov 2022 | Riccardo Crescenzi, Oliver Harman

  • Publication - Growth Brief

    Sustainable urbanisation in developing countries: Cities as places to live

    Climate change has presented cities with new challenges and opportunities for improving their liveability. If well-managed, cities offer both adaptation and mitigation benefits, as well as sustainable development opportunities, that other forms of living cannot. Climate change can no longer be ignored. Estimates suggest that inaction could cost the global economy between...

    21 Oct 2022 | Victoria Delbridge, Oliver Harman, Juliana Oliveira-Cunha, Tony Venables

  • Blog post

    The role of inter-governmental transfers in financing Africa’s cities

    Financial transfers from central governments to subnational governments in African cities can be successful in aiding urbanisation and development. However, these inter-governmental transfers need to be sufficiently sized, transparent, predictable, and based on feasible conditions to be effective.   Inter-governmental transfers (IGT) are the transfer of finance between...

    4 Aug 2022 | Oliver Harman

  • Publication - Case study

    Renforcer les finances municipales : l’expérience de Kampala (Ouganda)

    La ville ougandaise de Kampala illustre bien la manière dont la réforme institutionnelle et administrative est en mesure, sans modification de grande ampleur des politiques publiques, d’augmenter considérablement les rentrées fiscales municipales. À travers la mise en place de systèmes informatisés plus efficaces, en attirant des personnels plus capables et en...

    19 Jul 2022 | Victoria Delbridge, Oliver Harman, Astrid Haas, Tony Venables

  • Publication - Case study

    Renforcer les finances municipales : l’expérience de Mzuzu et du Malawi

    Le cas de Mzuzu illustre la manière dont les villes secondaires sont capables d’innover et de montrer la voie en matière de réforme des finances municipales, alors même que leurs recettes fiscales sont extrêmement faibles et leurs moyens minimes. Mzuzu est la troisième grande ville du Malawi. La présente étude de cas se concentre sur un système d’évaluation...

    19 Jul 2022 | Victoria Delbridge, Oliver Harman, Tony Venables, Astrid Haas, Dyson Jangia

  • Publication - Case study

    Xoojinta booska maaliyadeed magaalooyinka: Caddayn laga sameeyey Hargeysa

    Magaalada Hargeysa, in kasta oo ay ku jirtay marxalad hore ee kor u qaadista maaliyadeeda, haddana waxay ku gaadhay dib u habeyn la taaban karo dhawr sano gudahood tan iyo markii la aasaasay dimoqraadiyadeeda 2002. Guulaha la gaadhay ayaa waliba ka sii cajaa’ib badan, iyada oo la tixgelinayo xaaladda jilicsan ee Somaliland ka dib 30 sannado oo colaado ay ka socdeen...

    19 Jul 2022 | Victoria Delbridge, Oliver Harman, Priya Manwaring, Astrid Haas, Tony Venables, Ahmedi Yusuf

  • Credit: Oliver Harman
    Publication - Case study

    Renforcer les finances municipales : l’expérience de Hargeisa (Somaliland)

    La municipalité de Hargeisa, capitale du Somaliland, a beau avoir commencé depuis peu à améliorer sa situation financière, elle a déjà mené à bien des réformes notables dans les quelques années qui ont suivi l’établissement de son statut démocratique en 2002. Les réussites sont d’autant plus remarquables au vu de la situation précaire du Somaliland...

    19 Jul 2022 | Victoria Delbridge, Oliver Harman, Priya Manwaring, Astrid Haas, Tony Venables, Ahmedi Yusuf

  • Publication - Case study

    Enhancing the financial position of cities: Evidence from Hargeisa

    The City of Hargeisa in Somaliland, despite being in the very early stages of enhancing its financial position, has achieved significant reform in just a few years. The successes achieved are even more remarkable, considering Somaliland’s recognition as a sovereign state by the international community and resultant limited opportunity for international partnership’....

    19 Jul 2022 | Victoria Delbridge, Oliver Harman, Priya Manwaring, Astrid Haas, Tony Venables, Ahmedi Yusuf

  • Publication - Case study

    Enhancing the financial position of cities: Evidence from Kampala

    The city of Kampala in Uganda provides an illustrative example of how institutional and administrative reform, without widespread policy change, can generate substantial increases in municipal revenues. Through the implementation of more efficient digitalised systems, attracting higher capacity staff, and a focus on the ‘citizen as a client’, the city has managed to...

    19 Jul 2022 | Victoria Delbridge, Astrid Haas, Oliver Harman, Tony Venables

  • Publication - Case study

    Enhancing the financial position of cities: Evidence from Mzuzu

    The case of Mzuzu in Malawi illustrates how secondary cities, where revenues are often low and capacity is limited, can innovate and lead the way on municipal finance reform. The focus of this case study is a simple and fit-for-capacity property valuation system that increased realised revenues seven-fold between 2013 and 2018. Explore the interactive case study here or...

    19 Jul 2022 | Victoria Delbridge, Oliver Harman, Astrid Haas, Tony Venables, Dyson Jangia

  • Publication - Case study

    Renforcer les finances municipales : l’expérience de Dakar

    Dakar est l’une des rares villes africaines qui se soit trouvée tout près de lancer un emprunt obligataire municipal sur le marché des capitaux. Initialement prévue pour 2014 et d’un montant de US$40 millions, l’opération était destinée à financer un nouveau marché couvert pour abriter les petits vendeurs ambulants. Le marché aurait regroupé plus de 4 000...

    19 Jul 2022 | Victoria Delbridge, Oliver Harman, Astrid Haas, Tony Venables, Khady Dia Sarr

  • Publication - Case study

    Enhancing the financial position of cities: Evidence from Dakar

    The city of Dakar in Senegal is one of the only cities in Africa to come close to taking a municipal bond to market. The US$40 million bond, set to launch in 2014, was designed to fund a new market hall for informal traders in the city. The market would relocate more than 4,000 street vendors, with the aim of moving them from side streets into a safe and central place to...

    19 Jul 2022 | Victoria Delbridge, Oliver Harman, Astrid Haas, Tony Venables, Khady Dia Sarr

  • Blog post

    Barriers for women in economics: A review of recent findings

    The field of economics is one of the most gender imbalanced fields in academia, skewing heavily towards men. In this blog, we focus on three inhibiting mechanisms driving these gender imbalances in the discipline, namely lack of recognition, poor work environments, and self-selection.   With only two Nobel economic prizes awarded to women (out of 89 awards) and...

    10 Mar 2022 | Ondine Berland, Oliver Harman, Ninon Moreau-Kastler

  • Blog post

    Learning from Lagos

    How a "lite" rapid transit system in the Nigerian city transformed commuting. In many emerging cities, public transit is informal and unregulated. Considerable quality of life, environmental, and health consequences result from this. At an individual level, many people are unable to afford public transit and must walk to work, which reduces their career opportunities,...

    22 Nov 2021 | Oliver Harman, Siobhan McDonough

  • Blog post

    Intermediate cites and climate action: Driving change through urban land use and governance

    In the first blog of this two-part series, it was argued that especially in low-income settings, intermediate cities, through strong rural-urban linkages, can provide an important social safety net in addition to their potential to alleviate poverty in the long-term. Moreover, and although largely undervalued by the international community and countries, intermediate cities...

    9 Sep 2021 | Oliver Harman

  • Blog post

    Intermediate cities: A missing piece in the climate change puzzle

    Research and debate on climate change currently underestimate the importance of a key group of players: intermediate cities. Currently conversation and studies on climate change often centre on large and relatively wealthy capital cities. Their size in population, data availability and comparatively higher energy use per person are factors that draw attention. In...

    7 Sep 2021 | Oliver Harman

  • Blog post

    How the pandemic can be a catalyst for city climate action

    Recovering from the socioeconomic shock of COVID-19 will not be easy. Effective decisions on where to put investment will be the key to unlocking greater prosperity for developing cities. We discuss what actions developing cities could focus on to kickstart their economies while helping the global fight against climate change. The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic...

    23 Feb 2021 | Serge de Gheldere , Oliver Harman

  • Publication - Policy Brief

    COVID-19 and taxes: Policies for the post-pandemic recovery

    The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented strain on public finances across developing countries. Large fiscal responses and weak economic activity have widened deficits and increased public debt, which for many will be unsustainable over the medium-term. It is important for policymakers to consider policies for mobilising additional revenue. To this end, this...

    27 Jan 2021 | Oliver Harman, Anders Jensen, Farria Naeem, Moussa Saab, Shahrukh Wani, Nick Wilkinson

  • Publication - Policy Brief

    Urban property taxes in Pakistan’s Punjab

    Property tax is a significantly under-utilised tax instrument in Punjab, accounting for only 6% of the total provincial tax. With a population of over 100 million, all of Punjab collects less urban property tax than the city of Chennai in India, home to about 10 million people. Punjab's cities have significant service delivery deficits. For example, only 35% of urban...

    2 Nov 2020 | Shahrukh Wani, Hina Shaikh, Oliver Harman

  • Blog post

    The gateway to carbon pricing? Air pollution policy

    Buying carbon is too cheap and easy. 'Gateway tax', focussing on air pollution, could be initial step. Outdoor air pollution causes 4 million deaths a year. When it comes to climate policies, of those available, the economist’s preferred tool tends to be the elusive carbon tax’. Despite notable successes, the implementation of carbon...

    21 Aug 2020 | Oliver Harman, Ondine Berland

  • Blog post

    In defence of density

    At their core, cities are absences of space between people. You can call it density, closeness, or proximity; it is the opposite of distance. The on-going COVID-19 pandemic has brought this core feature of cities under question. But this criticism paints with a broad brush: what matters are the type of density and the way it is managed. The type of density Density alone...

    3 Jul 2020 | Shlomo Angel, Patrick Lamson-Hall, Oliver Harman, Shahrukh Wani

  • Blog post

    Behavioural economics of lockdown compliance: In search of lost time and well-behaved neighbours

    There are some crucial insights that behavioural economics and surrounding psychological evidence can bring to bear on public policies of a lockdown. Such insights are particularly pertinent to leveraging humans' 'predictable irrationality' in its design. Applying this evidence suggests that, where lockdowns are implemented, it might be better for policymakers to impose...

    4 May 2020 | Oliver Harman, Victoria Delbridge

  • Blog post

    Tendering trash: Lessons in urban waste management from Indian cities

    South Asian cities are urbanising rapidly. With this, overflowing landfills and trash laden streets are becoming more common. Local governments and municipal corporations, many marred by inadequate financing and low capacity, are the first to be held responsible for this mismanagement, from which further negative spill overs occur. These can include high incidences of...

    17 Mar 2020 | Oliver Harman, Sidharth Santhosh

  • Blog post

    Urbanisation in fragile societies: Thinking about Kabul

    As part of the Blavatnik School of Government’s “Challenges of Government” Conference, the International Growth Centre’s Cities that Work team put together a panel on identity and legitimacy in Kabul. The discussion highlighted the importance of building legitimacy in fragile contexts, particularly given the emergence of fragmented identities and new networks of...

    13 Feb 2020 | Oliver Harman, Shoaib Rahim, Shahrukh Wani

  • Blog post

    Navigating the urban age

    Whatever we might say is right or wrong with cities of the 21st century, they are indisputably a defining feature of our age. As much as we are post-modern, post-gender or post-colonial, we are also post-rural. Our existence, for an increasing majority, is urban. Even more than that, our aspirations are urban. This is visible almost everywhere. In the US, people with...

    11 Feb 2020 | Oliver Harman, Shahrukh Wani

  • Blog post

    Urban data innovations: Three cities showing their smarts

    Last year the International Growth Centre (IGC) co-hosted a policy workshop in Washington DC in the United States (US) with the World Bank, George Washington University, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) as part of the 6th Urbanisation and Poverty Reduction Conference. The theme was ‘Leveraging new data for better urban management and policies’. This year,...

    10 Feb 2020 | Victoria Delbridge, Oliver Harman

  • Blog post

    Climate change: won or lost in cities or by cities?

    Extinction Rebellion disrupted London and brought many transport routes to a standstill on Easter Weekend in 2019. A key demand for the direct action group was for the government to declare a climate emergency. This demand has since been met - by the UK parliament, as well as the Argentinian senate, the French parliament and the Canadian House of Commons. In fact,...

    1 Nov 2019 | Oliver Harman

  • Blog post

    Treedistribution: Combatting environmental inequality in cities

    Inequality is not a recent phenomenon. One root of inequality can be traced back to pre-historic urban civilisations, where grain stores varied in size and the grain-wealthy clustered together in particular locations. But with the increasing importance of inequality across and within countries over time, governments have often first turned their attention to addressing the...

    31 Oct 2019 | Oliver Harman

  • Blog post

    Inclusive growth for cities: Fuzzy, functional or forsaken?

    The challenge: Inequality in cities Inequality is one of the pressing issues of our time. China’s growth has reduced inequality globally, yet within countries, disparities have tended to increase. This increase in inequality has been most present in cities. Urban areas can be the most unequal: the benefits of scale and specialisation often failing to find their way...

    30 Oct 2019 | Oliver Harman, Neil Lee

  • Publication - Case study

    The BRT and the danfo: A case study of Lagos’ transport reforms from 1999-2019

    Over the last 20 years, Lagos has had to make large-scale investments in transport infrastructure to keep up with its growing population. Most notably, in 2008, Lagos opened the first ever Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system on the African continent. Today, the system boasts two different lines which cover over 35.5 km of track and transport over 350,000 commuters on a daily...

    28 Oct 2019 | Biodun Otunola, Sebastian Kriticos, Oliver Harman

  • Blog post

    Should I stay or should I go? Managing populations with urban to rural migration incentives

    Sydney you’ve got to let me know, should they stay or should they go. In 2011, Sydney, the largest city in Australia, asked its residents, should they stay or should they go? Despite regularly rated as one of the world’s top ten liveable cities, the government was offering residents AUD$7,000 (£4,500 or ~one month’s average wage) to move to the country’s rural...

    22 Jul 2019 | Oliver Harman

  • Blog post

    Urban density and the promises of proximity

    As an economist, an end of year tradition is to muse over The Royal Society of Statistics, ‘Statistic of the Year’. In 2018, the singled out stat was: 90.5% - the proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled. An important statistic, but an area in which the International Growth Centre’s (IGC) ‘Cities that Work’ initiative has limited...

    16 May 2019 | Oliver Harman